Legal Issues Facing Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Legal by qpn10303


									      “Legal Issues Facing Grandparents Raising Grandchildren”
                            Legal Research Project:
                      Interim Recommendations for the
                Ministry of Children and Family Development
     Prepared by: Kristen Holten, Legal Researcher & Professor Barbara Whittington,
                             Project Co-Chair for Advisory
                                      June 27, 2008

1.   Recognize the foster parent-equivalent role grandparents raising grandchildren
     perform and provide support services and financial assistance equivalent to what foster
     parents receive. This includes equivalent rates for all “levels of care” and recognizes the
     expertise of the grandparents.

     Rationale: To address the issue that there exists an underground child welfare system
     for over 9,000 B.C. grandchildren and to ensure that children raised by grandparents
     have access to the same services and quality of life as foster children. Also, to address
     the issue expressed by grandparents that there seems to be a commitment expressed in
     the Child, Family and Community Services Act to family care where possible but little
     support for that care. The need for respite, daycare, and counseling are three issues
     consistently raised. In other jurisdictions this is called family care support.

2.   Appoint a “Grandparent Support Officer” in the Ministry to provide consistent and
     up-to-date information and support to Ministry social workers, grandparents
     (Indigenous and non-Indigenous), and the public.

     Rationale: To correct inconsistencies in service delivery and promote greater inter-
     Ministerial collaboration. In Washington State such a person is called a “Navigator” and
     the role has proved helpful to social workers, other service providers, policy makers and
     grandparents. Perhaps this person could coordinate with community agencies to offer
     help with the sudden needs grandparents have when in crisis situations grandchildren
     arrive: from advice and information to cribs and car seats, these grandparents need help.

3.   Ensure that Ministry social workers are adequately trained to serve the needs of
     grandparents raising grandchildren. This training could be assisted by standardized
     “checklists” provided to all regional offices to ensure that all Ministry social workers are
     similarly informed of grandparents’ possible questions and the legal, financial and
     service assistance they might access. Cultural competence would be essential.
     Rationale: Grandparents have consistently reported that social workers have a lack of
     knowledge & there is high staff turnover. Few workers had mentioned kin care policies
     or family development response or family group conferencing or mediation possibilities
     to the family. The situations facing grandparents and the grandchildren are very
     complex. There is a need for specific and ongoing training so that the developmental
     family issues are better understood by those who work with them. The parent(s) of the
     grandchildren would also benefit from more informed and sensitive service providers.
     Many grandparents need information about ministry and community resources/options.
     They have reported that many social workers either don’t have or don’t share this info.

4.   A review of the Child in the Home of a Relative Program to re assess the funded
     amounts, utility and application process to ensure that it is clear and accessible for
     grandparents. Additional benefits (child care, respite, medical/dental, and counseling)
     need to be consistently made available.

     Rationale: Grandparents tell us that what they like about CIHR is the simplicity and
     lack of stigma they experience with this programme. The amounts however are
     insufficient in most cases. The Ministry’s recent attempts to make improvements to
     CIHR could have inadvertently made the process more difficult for grandparents to
     access in a timely fashion. Grandparents are very worried that the screening process
     which has been delegated to MCFD will make more problems for their grandchildren
     receiving financial help. In addition there are different amounts for on (federal) and off
     reserve families.

5.   The creation of a Grandparents Advisory Committee to assist in reviewing MCFD
     policy and practice.

     Rationale: MCFD policies were not designed with grandparents raising grandchildren
     in mind. This advisory committee, like the Elders Council, would ensure that proposed
     policy has first been seen through the eyes of a culturally representative group of grand-
     parents. This would help in establishing collaborative relationships and contribute to
     best practices. The Legal Issues Research Project could assist in locating grandparents
     who might be able to participate on such an Advisory. One member of our Advisory,
     Audrey Lundquist is also on the present Elders Council.

     NOTE: many of these recommendations could be implemented with very little cost. It would take
     a small shift in thinking and commitment to see the B.C. grandparents raising grandchildren as a
     group that could assist the Ministry in their ongoing effort to develop collaborative and best
     practices. The grandparents have told us they wish to work cooperatively in every way they can,
     to improve the present possibilities and the future opportunities for their grandchildren.
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