Pashinski’s temporary guardianship for grandparents bill passes Senate, heads to governor

HARRISBURG, Oct. 16 – Calling it a tremendous victory for grandparents raising grandchildren in Pennsylvania, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, praised the Senate for passing H.B. 1539, which now goes to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature into law.

“I’m incredibly thankful to my fellow House and Senate members who voted to pass this legislation and ensure it’s signed sooner rather than later to help our grandparents raising grandchildren,” Pashinski said. “But even more so, I’m thankful that grandparents will now have legal rights when they step up to the plate and take over primary care for their grandchildren when the parents are not in the picture.”

House Bill 1539, specifically aimed at helping those affected by the opioid epidemic, would grant temporary guardianship in 90-day increments not to exceed one year to grandparents or other adult family members when the parents of the child are unable to care for him or her due to alcohol or opioid abuse issues.

“When a tragedy occurs and grandparents get a phone call nobody ever wants to receive stating their child has overdosed or, God forbid, passed away, their first action is often to make sure their grandchildren are safe and take them under their care,” Pashinski said. “However, those grandparents previously had no legal authority to enroll those children in school or make basic medical decisions for them. Temporary guardianship will give grandparents that temporary authority and ease one small part of the heavy burden they undertake for their grandchildren.”

In Pennsylvania, an estimated 82,000 grandparents are the sole caregivers of nearly 89,000 grandchildren. The increasing opioid epidemic has worsened an already growing problem. Research has shown that children achieve higher levels of success when they’re able to stay in a stable household situation with close family members. In addition to that, grandparents keeping their grandchildren out of the foster care system saves the state over an estimated $1 billion per year. 

“This is not the final step on the grandparents raising grandchildren front, it’s simply the beginning,” Pashinski said. “This issue isn’t going away and as long as the opioid epidemic continues to worsen, the number of grandparents raising grandchildren will continue to rise. I will continue speaking with grandparents to craft the necessary legislation to effectively help them, including providing safe visitation areas, respite, baby-sitting services and whatever else they need.”