|navigate: home: magazine: spring 2003: article|
Children, Youth and Families|
Partnership offers help to grandparents raising grandchildren
By Karen Tuohey Wing
| As baby boomers mature into retirement and their senior years, increasing numbers are getting an unexpected late-life surprise: a second family to raise. To meet some of the pressing issues and concerns facing grandparents-raising-grandchildren (GRG) families, Penn State Public Broadcasting and Penn State Cooperative Extension have collaborated to develop a call-in program and a new educational program.|
The new educational program, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Doubly Stressed, Triply Blessed, is being offered to GRG families and the general public by Cooperative Extension in half-day community forums. To date, five counties have run the program. In addition, an hour-long community call-in program was piloted in the fall on Take Note LIVE with host Patty Satalia, Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, and Amy Goyer, coordinator of the AARP Grandparent Information Center.
The number of U.S. children being raised by their grandparents is rising. In 1998, 1.4 million children in 888,000 households were being raised solely by their grandparentsa 53 percent increase since 1990. In Pennsylvania alone, there are more than 80,000 grandparent-headed households. These families face a number of challenges: child care, health services, housing, legal issues and education.
Maria McCarthy, a parent-educator in the AARON Intermediate Unit in Indiana, Pa., said, When you think about why grandparents or aunts and uncles end up with their grandchildren, the literature talks about the four Ds: death, drugs, divorce and desertion. There are seldom happy reasons why you have these children.
Dr. Matthew S. Kaplan, Penn State associate professor of intergenerational programs and aging, said the main goal of program is to help the public understand the plight of GRG families, as well as to present concrete ideas for helping.
These families have very little information and access to resources, and they often fall through the cracks of our human service systems, Kaplan said. Grandparents who step in and take responsibility for their grandchildren dont always have the rights and resources to do the job. So great a responsibility with limited resources is a potent recipe for stress, and the video producers do a great job of using the grandparents own words to convey that frustration.
These are clear, understandable profiles of people that most of us can relate to. It helps us to appreciate a situation that we could find ourselves in, too, he added.
Kaplan has set up a Web site at http://intergenerational.cas.psu.edu/grg.html to provide families with a comprehensive database of excellent links for financial assistance, support groups, legal rights, census information, research studies, state-by-state resources and much more.
Were trying to encourage people to pull together and develop support programs, Kaplan said. Our Cooperative Extension agents are on the front lines trying to help these families.
To create an outreach education program that could be delivered by extension agents, Kaplan teamed up with WPSX Take Note Producer Marie Hornbein. Their collaboration with each other and the extension agents resulted in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Doubly Stressed, Triply Blessed educational program.
Penn State Cooperative Extension and WPSX have complimentary objectives in wanting to help these families, Kaplan said, and by working together we were able to bring our respective strengths to bear in meeting the challenge of educating the public about difficulties faced by grandparents raising grandchildren families.
It pulls your heartstrings to visit GRG families in their homes and see the challenges they face every day, Hornbein said. Many of the grandchildren are special needs kids struggling with attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities or emotional problems. The grandparents make incredible sacrifices in taking on the responsibilities of raising their grandchildren. One couple abandoned their homethey couldnt sell itso they left their home to move to an apartment in a safe neighborhood. A single grandmother took a permanent leave of absence from her job, because her grandchildren need constant supervision. Each family we talked to during the videotaping increased my awareness of the courage and strength of these families. Hopefully, the Doubly Stressed, Triply Blessed project will provide some help and encouragement for them.
Funding for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Doubly Stressed, Triply Blessed project was provided by Penn State Outreach Partnership and Program Innovation funds.
The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren educational program is available for $30. For ordering information, call the College of Agricultural Sciences Publications Distribution Center at 814-865-6713. To order using VISA or MasterCard, call toll free: 877-345-0691.