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Massachusetts state senator offers plan to improve family law

Massachusetts state senator from the Middlesex and Essex Senate District, Hon. Katherine Clark, recently outlined some ideas and proposals for changes in family law in Massachusetts. The senator noted the importance of grandparents in the family unit and their increased role in raising children. Sen. Clark specifically addressed the challenges and obstacles grandparents often face in their attempt to help their grandchildren and her suggestions to effect change in this area.

Sen. Clark acknowledged the increasing role grandparents play in children's lives, sometimes by choice and other times as a result of necessity. She observed that, for many reasons, more and more grandparents are actually parenting a second generation. She cited national statistics documenting that millions of grandparents are raising their grandchildren nationwide, and approximately 30,000 grandparents are doing so in Massachusetts. The reasons for this growing trend are as diverse and varied as the families involved, but the senator mentions that many times the adult child has experienced a medical hardship, physical or mental illness or is dealing with addiction or incarceration.

When grandparents undertake the task of raising their grandchildren, they are often faced with legal questions as well as healthcare, financial and education-related decisions. Further, the senator indicated that the grandparents many times are forced to navigate a seemingly endless number of systems. This path may include the probate courts, state and federal social services programs, the healthcare system and public schools. The task of raising children under these circumstances is, as a result of all of these challenges, not only a financial and emotional strain but also, according to the senator, unnecessarily complicated and burdensome.

The senator has had the opportunity to meet with many families who are going through or have already gone through these types of experiences. Senator Clark recommends several changes to the system based on what she and her staff have learned from these families. Her proposals include legislative changes to improve state assistance to these types of families, simplifying the system for grandparents, and removing barriers to allow grandparents to adopt grandchildren without loss of benefits. Family law issues remain an important topic in Massachusetts. As society changes, it becomes increasingly important for citizens to remain informed of their rights and responsibilities under current law as well as how proposed legislative changes might impact them.

Source: Melrose Free Press, "Sen. Clark: Support for grandparents as parents," Sen. Katherine Clark, Oct. 18, 2012

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