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Eliminating the grandparents as guardians age

March 29, 1999
By: Jennifer Lutz
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 252

JEFFERSON CITY - Debra Greer's daughter was murdered October 1, 1997. Three small children were left behind without a mother. Greer took responsibility of the children, expecting to receive a small amount of financial help from the government.

She told the state she would be glad to take training classes, complete a home study, comply to background checks and anything else which needed to be done. However, Greer did not qualify for the Grandparents as Guardians program.

The problem -- she was too young.

Rep. Jon Dolan, R-Lake St. Louis, proposed a bill to eliminate the requirement of having to be 55 or older for the grandparents program.

"This is an innovative program which we are trying to make work better for a large number of families who are not 55 years old," Dolan said.

Greer's husband works full-time while she stays home to care for the children. The family only receive $292 per month for all of the children from the Social Services Division. She does not receive any money from the foster program.

"No one can predict when a tragedy will happen," said Greer, 45. "I'm not going to be quiet until something gets done."

If House Bill 252 passes, a grandparent would receive an extra $124 per month, per child and a requirement to attend training classes.

"This program may impact federal funds by no more than $100,000," Dolan said.

A bill proposed by Sen. Mary Bland, D-Kansas City, would lower the Grandparents as Guardians age to 50. If her bill reaches the House floor, Dolan plans on attaching an amendment to completley eliminate the age requirement.

"If this bill doesn't get passed then I will try again next year to get ahead," Dolan said.

Bland, who proposed the legislation for the Grandparents as Guardians program in 1997, is opposed to Dolan's bill.

"We can't address everybody," she said. "It is too costly."

Daycare is one option Bland suggests for the grandparents under 50 who are guardians of children.

"We are trying in the best interest of children and grandparents taking on a parenting role," she said. "I have been meeting with various grandparents who are guiding me on what needs to be done."

"The age of grandparents should not be the factor in every case," said Rep. Vicky Riback-Wilson, D-Columbia. "We shouldn't discriminate on the basis of age if the program would benefit children."

Anyone interested in applying to become a foster guardian should contact Sherry Moeller or Darlene Masters at 882-9180. Anyone who suspects a child has been abused or neglected should call 1-800-392-3738. To learn more about Coyote Hill contact Larry McDaniel at 874-0179.