MONTGOMERY, Ala. – An Alabama commission put out a public notice Wednesday seeking input from grandparents raising young children across the state.
Dubbed the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Commission, the advisory body was formed to research, identify and recommend ways that the state could help grandparents raising young children, many of whom do so informally, outside of the state’s foster system and without assistance.
According to data from Generations United and the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 230,000 children living with 60,000 grandparents or other relatives in Alabama through informal arrangements. In comparison, just 760 children were found to be living with a grandparent or other relative through formal arrangements, such as with the state’s foster system.
To date, the commission has held two meetings, with members hearing from actual grandparents raising children during the second meeting on Nov. 8. While plans are still being made to hold public hearings across the state, the commission is hoping grandparents raising children will reach out immediately through electronic means.
Feedback the commission is seeking includes what specific challenges grandparents raising children face, general thoughts, and ideas as to what the state can do to help. Grandparents or other relatives raising children that would like to provide feedback are encouraged to reach out via email at [email protected].
Darlene Mathieu, a member of the commission, told Alabama Daily News that the advisory group was created with the help of Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who she met with to discuss the difficulties she’s seen grandparents raising children struggle with across the state. In the release Wednesday, Ainsworth said that helping establish the commission was “the least we can do for helping grandparents who have taken on this vitally important role of raising grandchildren,” whom he said will become the “citizens and leaders for the next generation.”
Sen. Rodger Smitherman, another member of the commission, said that he hopes Alabama can lead the nation in finding ways to assist grandparents raising children, a scenario that has grown significantly in recent years across the country.
In the United States, there are 19 children being raised by a grandparent for every child in foster care, a high figure, but far below Alabama’s rate of 85 children being raised by a grandparent for every child in foster care.
“For too long, our Grandparents have suffered without help; a few states have started providing benefits for grandparents raising grandchildren, which has proven to be a huge help,” Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said in a statement.
“Alabama wants to be the state others look to as a leader in this epidemic that is running rampant in the country. Our Grandparents are special and need to be looked after however we can as a state and country.”
The next meeting of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Commission is scheduled for Jan. 11, with public hearings expected to begin sometime next year. In the meantime, commission members encourage grandparents or other relatives raising children to reach out via email with any and all feedback.