In a historical legislative act, the Alabama House and Senate unanimously passed a bill in 2023, creating the Joint Interim Study Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. Act Number 2023-521 (www.arc-sos.state.al.us) was signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey on June 14, 2023, the same month it was introduced in the Alabama House and Senate.
The commission was formed after Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth met with Grandparents who are raising their Grandchildren. These Grandparents showed how Alabama’s elderly, who have taken on the responsibility of raising their children’s children, need help. Mr. Ainsworth, who opened the meeting, said, “The establishment of this commission is the least we can do for helping the Grandparents who have taken on this vitally important role of raising Grandchildren, the very children who will become citizens and leaders for the next generation.”
During the first Commission meeting held in Montgomery in October, Rep. Randall Shedd was elected Chairman, and Sen. Rodger Smitherman was elected Vice Chairman.
Council members will soon begin meeting throughout the state, with Grandparents raising their Grandchildren and Kinship Families. Council members are looking at how the state can help as Grandparents struggle to raise children with little if any, help. Members hope to be able to speak with those who are raising Grandchildren either formally through the DHR system or informally, which we know the vast majority of residents are in and need help the most. There has also been an email address established for Grandparents who are raising their Grandchildren and other Kinship providers who wish to submit their thoughts, ideas, challenges, etc., to the Commission, [email protected].
The Council is made up of a variety of elected officials and Grandparents who are raising their Grandchildren. Rep. Shedd said during the meeting, “Everyone living in Alabama knows someone who has or is raising a relative. You can’t say it won’t happen to your family, as it might, either today or tomorrow. The reason most of our Grandparents end up raising their Grandchildren is due to opioids and other drugs such as LSD, heroin, and meth. Others include death, mental health issues, incarceration, and birth parents who cannot be parents and walk away from the responsibility”.
Sen. Smitherman says,” For too long, our Grandparents have suffered without help. A few states have started providing benefits for Grandparents raising Grandchildren, which has proven to be a huge help.
Alabama wants to be the state others look to as a leader in this epidemic that is running rampant in the country. Our Grandparents are special and need to be looked after however we can as a state and country.”
230,000 children living with 60,000 Grandparents or other relatives (informal arrangement). 760 children living with a Grandparent or other relative (formal arrangement). In the United States, for every child in foster care, 19 are being raised by a Grandparent. In Alabama, for every child in foster care, 85 are being raised by a Grandparent.
As a reference, when we say “Grandfamily,” it means any relative caregiver. While most are Grandparents, there are also brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins who are raising the children, who are sometimes referred to as Kinship Caregivers.