Grandparents Day was September 10th and we want to celebrate by dedicating this post to a very special type of caregiver – Grandparent Caregivers.
Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Colleen Pritoni, Coordinator of The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, to talk about this growing population of caregivers and the complex concerns involved as they dedicate their retirement years to raising their children’s children. Thanks for joining us, Colleen.
A: We’re beginning to see such an increase in the number of elders who have taken on the responsibility of raising their grandchildren or other minor relatives. Can you speak to some of the circumstances that might lead grandparents to step in and request guardianship?
C: There are many reasons that lead grandparents (and other relative caregivers) to raise their grandchildren. Whether it is because an adult child is struggling with mental illness, domestic violence, homelessness, or incarceration, many grandparents are stepping in to care for grandchildren. The primary reason today seems to be that one or both of the biological parents is struggling with significant substance abuse issues, specifically opioids.
A: Raising a child in today’s society can seem so different from when most grandparents were raising their own kids. Are there any added challenges these grandparents face because of the generation gap?
C: Fortunately, there are more services and resources today for children and families compared to when these grandparents were likely raising their own children. Despite the increase in services, however, grandparents have to “re-learn” how to parent in today’s society – whether it’s internet safety issues or learning about special education – many grandparents become overwhelmed. The most important thing for grandparents raising a grandchild to do is connect with a local support group – they will meet other grandparents at different points in their journeys who can share information and resources and offer support and understanding.
A: The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is such a great resource. Can you tell us how The Commission got started?
C: The Commission was established by the Legislature in 2008 and is a statewide Commission consisting of 15 volunteers “Commissioners” and one Director. The Chair, John Lepper, founded the Commission after years of advocacy while Mr. Lepper was a state representative. Mr. Lepper and his wife were raising their grand daughters and Mr. Lepper recognized that if he was having difficulties accessing services and resources then so must the other 10,000 grandparents raising grandchildren in Massachusetts. The Commission offers workshops, online resources, provides support for support group facilitators from across the state, and hosts an annual conference.
A: Are grandparents invited to attend the Commission meetings?
C: Commission meetings are held once a month (the second Wednesday of every month) at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs in Boston. Information about meetings and each meeting’s agenda are posted on the EOEA website. Every meeting is open to the public.
A: What can grandparents expect if they choose to attend the Annual Conference for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren?
C: The conference is the Commission’s most exciting event every year. It brings together over 200 grandparents, kinship caregivers, and providers to discuss the issues important to grandparents raising grandchildren. We offer workshops on a wide range of topics each year and we have a resource room for grandparents to meet with and collect information about resources that may help them and their family. The conference is FREE and lunch is always included.
A: Thank you so much for taking the time to give us this information. Again, The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is such a wonderful resource. What is the best way for grandparents to contact the Commission if they were looking for more information?
C: The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or checkout the website massgrg.com
If you are a Grandparent raising your grandchild and you are over the age of 55 and live in the Merrimack Valley please call Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley at 1-800-892-0890 and ask about the The Family Caregiver Support Program.