Pashinski joins Watson, Miller, Smith to announce federal funding for Kinship Navigator Program

Urges passage of grandparents raising grandchildren legislation awaiting final consideration in Senate

HARRISBURG, Oct. 11 – State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, joined Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith and state Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks, chairwoman of the House Children and Youth Committee, to announce Pennsylvania is expected to receive $479,307 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families to develop a kinship navigator program.

“This federal funding will greatly help cover the cost of Chairwoman Watson’s House Bill 2133, which would create a statewide kinship navigator program,” Pashinski said. “Grandparents need guidance to the resources that are available to them, and the navigator program will provide exactly the help they need.”

“This funding makes progress toward establishing a statewide kinship navigator program that can be a resource and lifeline for children and relative caregivers around Pennsylvania, but it is the first step,” Miller said. “I greatly appreciate the work of Representatives Pashinski and Watson on this issue and their dedication to supporting grandparents raising grandchildren and other kinship families, and I look forward to working with them to continue our support of kinship families around Pennsylvania.”

“The federal funding announced today is a critical missing piece of combatting the opioid crisis,” Smith said. “For grandparents raising grandchildren due to the opioid crisis, this funding will provide programs to assist them in finding and utilizing programs and services to support themselves and their grandchildren.”

Pennsylvania is seeking to establish a Kinship Navigator Program as part of bipartisan legislation sponsored by Pashinski and Watson. The legislative package aimed at helping grandparents raising grandchildren contains two bills:

  • House Bill 2133, which would establish the Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program – an informational resource for grandparents, both as a website and a toll-free hotline. The website would offer information on support and services available, and a specially trained navigator would be able to provide support and guidance to a kinship caregiver, and serve as a mediator to establish relationships between kinship caregivers and relevant federal, state and local agency staff. (Sponsored by Watson.)
  • House Bill 1539, which would grant temporary guardianship to grandparents when the parents of the grandchildren are unable to care for them primarily due to substance abuse issues. The temporary guardianship would give grandparents the right to make vital basic decisions for their grandchildren, such as the ability to take a child to the doctor or enroll the child in school. (Sponsored by Pashinski.)

Both bills are awaiting a vote on final consideration in the Senate.

“I urge everyone to contact their state senator and ask them to pass House Bills 1539 and 2133,” Pashinski said. “Both bills made it through the House with no problems and just need one final vote in the Senate before going to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk to be signed into law. It would be a shame if the Senate recessed next week and we had to start the process over next session. That’s valuable lost time that grandparents raising grandchildren aren’t being helped in Pennsylvania, which is inexcusable in my opinion.”

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 an estimated $1 billion per year.