Thanks John we need to help Rep. Cavaletto with his Grandparents bills in Illinois as well ?
July 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a series about adoption and foster care in the upstate.
Easley’s John Schafer believed he was the right person to care for his grandchildren when they were in need, but state law wouldn’t alow it.
So he got the law changed.
Schafer lost his rights to care for his grandchildren after they entered Department of Social Services custody. His grandson is now adopted and his granddaughter is now in a mental institution. Schafer has limited visitation rights with her.
“I was standing in family court. The judge looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Schafer, you don’t have to like it, but it’s the law. When we terminate the rights of parents, we terminate the rights of the family right along with them.’ I thought to myself, ‘That is so wrong on so many levels.’ My first thought was ‘we need to do something,’” Schafer said.
Schafer is the founder and director of the Grandparents Rights Association of South Carolina (GRASC), an organization founded four years ago and is dedicated to the protecting the rights of grandparents and grandchildren.
“The primary function [of GRASC] is to promote family rights and grandchildren’s rights,” Schafer said.
Schafer explained that grandparents were not thought to have rights when it came to expedited placement because they were not mentioned in the statutes.
For their first order of business, GRASC tried to introduce a bill in the South Carolina legislature.
The bill encourages family courts, in the case of the termination of parental rights, to give custody to the grandparents or another relative.
“It will serve dual function. It will help decrease the load on the foster care system, and it will keep kids with family if at all possible,” Schafer said.
Schafer explained that it took awhile to get representatives and senators to help sponsor the bill. Finally Schafer was able to get Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens to co-sponsor the bill in the last legislative session.
Martin helped to pass the bill through the house and the senate. “The bill was to provide the grandparents with rights as an alternative to placing the children in foster care,” Martin said.
This legislation session, the bill H3464 unanimously passed the House and the senate, and Gov. Haley signed it into law on June 12.
Since starting GRASC four years ago, the membership has grown to include 200 people statewide and is growing.
“I’m trying to make things better for all grandparents and all grandchildren in South Carolina,” Schafer said.
Schafer explained that they are expanding nationwide. There has been interest in other states. “We hope to have chapters in all 50 states,” Schafer said.
There is an established chapter in Tennessee and a chapter forming in North Carolina and Texas.
“Knowing we’ve accomplished something even though it’s too late for our children, knowing it was accomplished for every family in South Carolina makes me feel great,” Schafer said.
There is a link via the website to sign up to become a member of GRASC. There are no membership fees. For more information about GRASC, visit grasc.org.