A lawmaker in East Tennessee wants to deliver financial assistance to grandparents and other relatives who find themselves in the unexpected position of having to raise children of parents who are addicted to opioids.

Last year, Sen. Richard Briggs introduced SB0011 and is attempting to push it through the state legislature this year using unspent money from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.

There are close to 77,000 grandparents who have legal guardianship responsibility for their grandchildren in the state of Tennessee, according to a 2018 U.S. Census Bureau estimate. Of these, approximately 36,000 have been caring for their grandchildren for at least five years.

The current lack of support to grandparents and others relatives

The problem with the above-mentioned statistics is that these grandparents and other relatives do not receive help from the state other than through food stamps and TennCare. These caretakers are otherwise left on their own to support the needs of these children.

Features of the proposed bill

The bill proposed by Sen. Briggs would direct Department of Children’s Services (DCS) to set up a pilot program for three years that provided compensation to relative caregivers at half the level of the full foster care rate. This compensation will be provided even if the child had not been placed into state custody. The bill applies to any relative caring for children, not exclusively grandparents.

According to the criteria set forth in the bill, the children of these caretakers must be 16 years of age or younger. The relative must also utilize other assistance programs from the state to keep the child from entering foster care. A judge must also have made the custody order in the case.

The goal of the bill is to keep these children who have lost the ability to have one or both of their parents care for them, safe and secure with a loving family member.

Tapping the TANF Funds

Sen. Briggs is also a medical physician and believes this program is an excellent use of the TANF funds.

There is approximate $740 million of untapped TANF funds. The goal of the legislation, according to Sen. Briggs is to allocate some of those funds for this program to help grandparents take care of their grandchildren whom they have received into custody.

The tragedy of the opioid epidemic not only affects those who are addicted, but it reaches down into the family, across generations.  According to Sen. Briggs, any help they can provide will relieve much of the financial burden involved in taking care of these children.

The bill would also direct the state of Tennessee to document all payments made through this pilot financial assistance program.

If you have family law issues involving guardianship or child custody that need resolved, our experienced family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates are here to help you and your children obtain the best solution possible. We help adults and children who need family law representation. To set up an appointment about your family law situation, please call us today at 615.977.9370, or use our contact form.