Grandparents raising grandkids need more financial support, says Opposition

·3 min read
Green MLA Lynne Lund says grandparents raising their grandkids should receive comparable compensation to foster families.  (Richard Lyons/Shutterstock - image credit)
Green MLA Lynne Lund says grandparents raising their grandkids should receive comparable compensation to foster families. (Richard Lyons/Shutterstock - image credit)

The Official Opposition on P.E.I. is again calling on government to provide more details on a program for people raising children who are not their own.

The Alternative Caregiver Program began in 2017 as a pilot project and is a substitute to foster care. It provides family members — like grandparents — with $700 a month.

But Green MLA Lynne Lund says caregivers also incur other expenses that would be covered for foster parents, but which are not for grandparents. Those expenses include therapy, glasses, respite care and anything beyond basic dental.

"What we're looking for is the least intrusive option for children possible, and when there is a family member who can step up and the child can stay with a family member, that's a good outcome," Lund told CBC News.

"We should be doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible for grandparents."

Lund says she's working with 16 grandparents raising grandchildren in this situation in her district of Summerside-Wilmot.

"They certainly didn't imagine they were going to be raising a second generation of children. But for all different reasons, they have found themselves in this situation and they have stepped up and they are doing the very best they can for these children," she said.

"What we're asking for is consistency, because there are all kinds of support that are given to people who are fostering children. And that's fantastic. We're happy that those supports are there. We are just asking for consistency for those same supports ... whether or not the child is related to you."

'The amount we provide ... is enough'

Lund raised the issue during question period on Tuesday, asking Social Development Minister Brad Trivers if government would work toward a consistent policy for all Islanders who are raising fostering children, grandchild or not.

"The alternate care provider program is one that's evolving. We're reviewing the policy and hope to have that done soon," Trivers said.

"We want to have consistency across programs. We want to make sure, of course, the very most important thing is that we're serving our clients, in this case the children in care, the best we can."

This has not gotten the attention it deserves. — Lynne Lund, Green MLA

In March, Trivers said he would table a copy of the program policy "as soon as possible". That document has not been tabled.

"The alternative care provider program is a different and separate program from foster care with much different parameters … [the program] is supposed to be a temporary program until the parents of the children can get back on their feet," Trivers told the house Tuesday.

"I believe that the amount we provide that program, although it doesn't specifically have amounts for those services … is enough that most people can get those benefits and provide those services, but as always, we're looking to improve our program."

But Lund says she does not accept that response.

"The fact that there is no policy in place yet for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren tells me that this has not gotten the attention it deserves," said Lund, adding that she thinks the attention given to supporting foster parents is "fantastic".

"What grandparents are doing for their grandchildren is every bit as valuable and every bit as important and government has a responsibility to provide consistent support for anyone fostering children, whether or not they are your grandkids."

More from CBC P.E.I.