The Kinship Caregiver Navigator Program is now the law of the land after being signed by the governor late last week.

State Representative Kathy Watson, who is the Chairwoman of the House Children and Youth Committee, says HB 2133 creates a support system for the 76,000 Pennsylvania grandparents raising their grandchildren mostly due to the opioid epidemic. 

Representative Watson opens the House Children and Youth Committee session.

“The website would offer information on support and services available,” Watson said while drafting the legislation earlier this year. “A specially trained navigator at the other end of the hotline would be able to provide support and guidance to a kinship care giver.”

President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children Joan Benso is pleased with the bill and says research indicates children do best when raised by someone they know.

“Our goal here, and these caregivers’ goals, is that parents will recover from the challenges that they’re experiencing,” Benso said. “And children will be able to successfully reunite with their birth parents and never be placed in the foster care system.”

In helping grandparents to continue their role as caregiver until the parent has overcome their crisis, the bill will also save Pennsylvania money as each child in foster care costs the state roughly $25,000 per year.

“Grandparents always want to do right by raising their grandchildren. These folks are actually doing all of us a favor because they perform the service of keeping children out of foster care,” Representative Watson said. “We need to get the word out. We need to make a difference.”

Legislation typically goes into effect 180 days after being signed into law, but a $475,000 federal grant has allowed the PA Department of Human Services to get a jump start on creating the kinship care navigator program. The DHS has already put a request out to get ahead on building the program.