Alabama officials are looking to hear from grandparents raising grandchildren in the state as a recently formed commission continues to study how the state can assist grandparents and others raising family members.

Earlier this year, the Alabama Legislature unanimously voted to create the Joint Interim Study Commission on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. The commission was created at the behest of Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth after meeting with a group of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren and hearing the struggles the arrangement brings.  

The council comprises several Alabama lawmakers and officials, chaired by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview).

Council members will soon begin meeting throughout the state, with grandparents raising their grandchildren and Kinship Families. The Department of Human Resources regulates kinship families. However, most grandparents who raise grandchildren do so informally. In Alabama, 230,000 children are raised informally by grandparents or other relatives, while only 760 children are formally placed with a grandparent or relative. In Alabama, for every child in foster care, 85 are being raised by a grandparent.

"For too long, our Grandparents have suffered without help," said council vice-chair State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham). "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," he added. "Our Grandparents are special and need to be looked after however we can as a state and country."

Grandparents and other family members raising children, formally or informally, are encouraged to email questions, concerns and ideas to the commission's official email.

Previously, commission members have suggested using settlement funds from the state's opioid settlement to assist older Alabamians with childcare costs.

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