May, 2011: For over a century, Kansas has wrestled with the reality that many Kansas children are raised by extended family — not by their parents, but by their Grandparents. Yet often these children’s loving and supportive grandparents — weary-yet-generous, two-generation caregivers — are not given the legal standing, credit and support normally allowed for regular parents.
Working with Grandparent advocates, with senior advocates in the “Silver-Haired Legislature” lobbying group, and with state officials and fellow legislators, Oletha crafted and introduced the Grandparents Rights Law, to finally empower those who sacrifice their “golden” years to lovingly raise the next generation in their family — preserving positive, supportive family connections, and a true, loving, family-home life, for their grandchildren.
The new law, which Oletha introduced as Senate Bill 23, allows grandparents to serve as interested parties in court proceedings when a child has been removed from a troubled home. Under the new law (except when the court finds it is not in the best interest of the child), grandparents will automatically have participatory court rights. (Under previous law, grandparents only received court notices and status updates after making a formal request — an option many grandparents didn’t even know existed.)
After years of struggle to work the legislation through the Senate and House, Oletha finally got it passed, and celebrated with dozens of Grandparent supporters and advocates from both parties, as Governor Brownback signed her bill into law.