by Senator Charles Wyrick
In every community in Oklahoma, more grandparents are finding themselves in the position of providing a home for their grandchildren. This happens for many reasons—the children’s parents divorce and neither is capable of providing a stable environment. Sometimes the children come from a single-parent home and the custodial parent has become ill, or for some other reason cannot provide the safe, loving environment children need.
According to AARP, in our state there are 57,601 children living in grandparent-headed households, which is 6.5% of all children in the state. Of the children living in households headed by grandparents or other relatives in Oklahoma, 34,185 are living there without either parent present.
In the past several years, the Oklahoma State Legislature has considered several bills aimed at strengthening grandparents’ rights in our state. This past week, we gave unanimous approval to a measure that would exempt an adoptive grandparent from any court costs associated with adopting a grandchild. Senate Bill 254 would also waive pre-placement home study requirements in certain adoptive cases if the petitioning grandparent has no record of felony convictions, domestic violence or protective orders.
There are often tragic circumstances that result in grandparents stepping in to provide a loving home for their grandchildren. It is difficult for the grandparents, many of whom have long since raised their children, and may have even entered retirement—and it can be difficult for the children, who may have lived in less than ideal conditions before coming to stay with their grandparents.
When such situations arise, we need to ensure state laws and public policy help, not hinder, grandparents who are opening their homes and their hearts to ensure their grandchildren have a good home and as happy a childhood as possible.
As always, I welcome your comments on state government.