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Commission considers center to provide resources for caregiver grandparents


Commission considers center to provide resources for caregiver grandparents

Nov 07, 2023 | 2:32 pm ET
By Ralph Chapoco
Commission considers center to provide resources for caregiver grandparents
Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview, stands on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives on May 11, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

A state commission is considering recommending the creation of centers that provide resources for grandparents who care for their grandchildren.

Keith Lowhorne, vice-president of Kinship for the Alabama Foster & Adoptive Parents Association, suggested the idea during a Tuesday meeting of the Joint Interim Study Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, touting it as one avenue for addressing the shortage of resources available to grandparents.

“I think the one-stop shop is a proven method, and is a successful method,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “Other states in the country are using that method.”

Under the proposal, the centers would offer resources to caregiver grandparents, such as diapers or access to daycare. They could also serve as a place as a guide for other resources provided by the state.

“Right now, if you go to Madison County, you may get one answer,” Lowhorne said. “And if you go to Mobile County, you may get totally opposite answers. So there is no cohesive answer for everybody, so having something under one roof, where there is an expert who knows what is going on, and knows how to answer that question, is of utmost importance.”

Lowhorne made a distinction between formal and informal caregiving by grandparents. The formal process is where they officially petition the state to be the guardian, such as applying to be a foster parent for a child.

Then there are those who become caregivers on an informal basis, cases when grandparents assume the role of caretaker without having petitioned the Alabama Department of Resources. “In the last census 1,000 grandparents were doing that,” Lowhorne said. “Compare that to 60,000, like me, who are not going through that system. So we get absolutely zero help.”

Members of the committee have long said there has been an increasing number of instances that grandparents have been caring for their grandchildren.

According to a handout distributed at an October meeting of the commission, more than 59,000 grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren in Alabama. For every child raised by kin in foster care, another 85 are raised by kin outside of the system.

“As you heard from the meeting, it is a real problem across the state,” said Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview, who chairs the commission. “I am blessed with my grandchildren being raised by their parents, but I know that is a real problem for a lot of people.”

The committee will gather information related to the issue and present recommendations to the Legislature.