At this time of year, we stop to give thanks and spend time with our friends and loved ones to reflect on our many blessings. We spend time renewing the ties that connect families and sharing in the joys of the season. Because November is also National Family Caregivers Month, this is a time of year when we pause to think about the people whose support makes it possible for their loved ones to live independently in their homes and communities, as well as the increasing number of grandparents and other older relatives who take over raising children when their parents cannot. Without them, we could not effectively support community living for older adults and people with disabilities, and millions more children would enter the already overburdened foster care system.
Being here at ACL has given me the opportunity to meet some truly amazing individuals, including many family caregivers, grandparents, and older relatives who provide support for their loved ones. I have also met many talented and dedicated professionals whose mission is all about supporting family caregivers, grandparents, and older relatives. While nearly every program ACL administers, along with many others across the federal government, supports these folks in any variety of ways, I know we have the opportunity to do more on behalf of these incredible people.
Last year, Congress passed two important pieces of legislation that hold tremendous potential to strengthen how we support and sustain family caregivers, and grandparents and older relative caregivers. The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act will establish a Family Caregiving Strategy to better support families. The Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act focuses national attention on better understanding the complex needs of grandparents and older relative caregivers. It also will help to make information about promising practices and programs more available to them.
Earlier this year, the Family Caregiving Advisory Council and Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren met for the first time here in Washington, DC. I chaired these meetings and came away from them more confident than ever about the potential they have for improving family caregivers’ access to needed support. It was an inspiring two days, and I was so happy to see the level of interest and engagement from members of the public, key partners, and other stakeholders.
At ACL, we know that input from the people most affected by our programs is critical to ensuring our work is relevant and responsive to their needs. Public input will help shape the ongoing activities of the two advisory councils and inform their recommendations. Right now, ACL is seeking responses to a few key questions for each of the councils. We especially need family caregivers, grandparents, and older relatives who are raising children, and people who have been in those roles in the past, to share their experiences and insights. We also need our partners and other advocates to share their expertise.
We are collecting input online at ACL.gov. Click this link to provide input to the Supporting Grandparents Advisory Council or this link to provide input to the Family Caregiving Advisory Council. (These requests for information will be published in the Federal Register next week, as well.)
The information we collect will provide up-to-date information to the councils and enable them to better understand the challenges facing family caregivers, solicit recommendations for how we can better engage with family caregivers in meaningful ways, and identify the latest promising practices for supporting family caregivers and grandparents raising grandchildren.
I’m asking for your help in two ways. First, please provide your input! Second, please help spread the word so we can ensure we are considering the needs and experiences of the widest possible range of people.