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Grandparents Caring for Grandkids Could Get Money under Proposed Tenn. Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) — A Tennessee bill proposed by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) could provide childcare payments to family members in need.

Grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members who have been given custody of their relative's children could benefit from the bill.

Kim Valentine is a grandmother raising two of her daughter's children.

"Our children are the collateral damage of the opioid epidemic. And they didn't ask to be born, but they've been born into a situation they've got no control over," explained Valentine.

A three-year pilot program would compensate caregivers at half the full foster care even if the child has not been placed in state custody.

"We have 70,000 grandparents in Tennessee who have been given custody by the courts of their grandchildren and their great grandchildren. When they are given custody by the courts they receive no aid from the state other than maybe food stamps and TennCare for the children's healthcare," said Briggs.

The goal is to help grandparents and other family members afford caring for them.

"We have given our grandchildren great stability, and comfort, and love. They still have to question why a parent who's supposed to have given birth to them and love them chooses drugs over them every single day," said Valentine.

Recipients of the assistance would need to meet the following qualifications:

1: The child must be 16 or younger and the relative caregiver must be 21 or over.

2: The child must have been placed in the custody of the caregiver by court order.

3: At least six months have passed since the court order.

4: The child is at risk of entering state custody.

5: The caregiver's total household income does not exceed more than twice federal poverty guidelines.

6: The caregiver must agree to seek the establishment and enforcement of child support, including naming the father unless there is a good reason not to.

7: The caregiver agrees to participate in any programs offered by the department to reduce the risk of the child entering state custody.

The bill was sent to a senate committee in February 2019.

The original proposal suggested a start date for the pilot program be set for January 1, 2020 and run through 2023.

In the house, the bill was returned to the clerk in March 2019.

Kim said her daughter is four years clean and sober, and is building a relationship with her children.

As for the proposed bill, Senator Briggs said if the governor gives the green light to use money already earmarked for needy families, he won't need to push the measure into law.

So far now timeline for when a decision will be made, but we're keeping in touch with the Senator for updates.

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