HARRISBURG (Oct. 2, 2018) — The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA), along with 27 county bar associations, launched the “Understanding When Grandparents and Others Can Seek Custody” public information campaign at a news conference today.
Part of a statewide effort co-sponsored by the PBA, the Pennsylvania Bar Insurance and Trust Fund and county bar associations across the state, the campaign provides basic information about a change in the law that expands who can request custody of a minor child, especially in regard to grandparents, great-grandparents and other parties.
As a result of the opioid epidemic sweeping the state, more and more grandparents, other family members and neighbors are becoming primary caregivers of minor children when parents are absent. Recent statistics from Grandfamilies.org show that 103,000 children in Pennsylvania live with a relative with no parent present and more than 88,000 grandparents are householders responsible for their grandchildren who live with them. Act 21 of 2018, which went into effect in Pennsylvania on July 3, 2018, expands custody rights for caregivers who find themselves in challenging situations like these.
“This change in the law helps more grandparents and other caring individuals establish the right to pursue custody in the court system,” said PBA President Charles Eppolito III. “By educating residents across the state, we are hoping to play a role in connecting caretakers with the information and support they need to be able to make the right decisions for their grandchildren.”
Joining Eppolito at the news conference were Sen. Donald White (Armstrong, Butler, Indiana and Westmoreland), primary sponsor of the legislation; Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (Luzerne), sponsor of pending legislation aimed at helping grandparents; Grace Schuyler of Camp Hill, PBA Community and Public Relations co-chair; Christina DeMatteo of Blue Bell and Lawrence J. Persick of West Chester, PBA Family Law Section members who developed an informational brochure for the campaign; and Wendy Loranzo, founder of the The Elizabeth Loranzo iCare Foundation, Middletown.
“Too many lives have been tragically cut short by the opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities across the state and their children end up becoming caught up in the turmoil that ensues,” said White. “My legislation gives grandparents or other relatives the ability to file for legal custody if they can show that they have a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child.”
“Grandparents raising their grandchildren are doing everything they can for the grandchildren they love,” Pashinski said. “We owe it to grandparents to remove unnecessary roadblocks and barriers to allow them to provide the appropriate nurturing and care for their grandchildren.”
As part of the Oct. 1-15 informational campaign, newspaper ads run under an agreement with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association will be placed in more than 80 newspapers across the state. In addition, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, 30-second television and radio spots will be airing statewide and an informational brochure will be distributed by the PBA and participating county bar associations. The brochure and other resources are available on the association’s website at www.pabar.org.
“Understanding When Grandparents and Others Can Seek Custody” is the 14th in a series of statewide public education efforts conducted under the direction of the PBA Community and Public Relations Committee. Previous campaigns have addressed such issues as expungement of criminal records, reporting child abuse, education rights of exceptional children, child support, wills and estates, identity theft and credit issues.
The informational campaign is organized by the PBA Community and Public Relations Committee and funded by the PBA and a grant from the Pennsylvania Bar Insurance and Trust Fund. The campaign received informational support from the PBA Family Law Section and The Elizabeth Loranzo iCare Foundation.