Bill to increase monthly stipend for grandparents raising grandchildren moves forward
For the last few years, KJZZ has reported on the myriad of challenges facing grandparents who are raising grandkids. A big hurdle is money. Grandparents are often retired.
Now a bill is moving through the state Legislature that would increase the monthly stipend of kinship families.
This is not a new bill. Even Senate Health Chairman T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) acknowledged that.
“I think between the two of us we have run pieces of legislation similar or identical to this over the years,” Shope said, referring to his colleague and bill sponsor, Sen. Lela Alston (D-Gilbert). Until last year, grandparents or other kinship families received about $75 a month per child.
That figure has increased to $300. Now advocates are asking lawmakers to raise that stipend to $600 a month, which is what non-familial foster parents receive.
“I personally know of a couple of situations in which the kinship family had to give up the children and give them back to the state because they could not afford to take care of them,” said Alston.
The Senator also talked about the difficulties facing many of these children when they’re placed with grandparents.
“Almost always, these are children with some kind of trauma in their lives, because these situations do not occur without some kind of trauma,” she said. “And so the children often are damaged and need additional support, then what average childhood and normal family would require.”
Lawmakers also heard from Victoria Gray who raised several of her grandkids. She and her husband took in their first grandbaby in the 1990s.
“For my granddaughter, we received about $17 a month in ’93 to help with diapers.”
The little girl’s father was Gray’s son. Six months later, the Grays took in her half brother. He was not their biological grandchild. The children shared the same mother.
The only way to keep the kids together was for the Grays to become the boy’s foster parents. So they did. “He received $550,” she said, referring to the amount the state was willing to pay for the Grays to care for the boy.
Gray testified that she and her husband would have greatly benefited from a much higher stipend. Over the years, they had to tap into savings, including their 401(k) to care for their grandchildren.
“But now my husband and I are in a financial situation. He’s 87, and he continues to work because we need to pay off, continue to pay bills.”
The bill sailed through the Senate health committee. The measure still has a ways to go before it potentially arrives on the governor’s desk.