March 21, 2019
In the State of West Virginia, approximately 35,000 grandchildren are being raised by their grandparents. In the face of the opioid epidemic, these numbers are on the rise. Are you raising your grandchildren? Are you looking for support? The Healthy Grandfamilies program may be able to help and it is coming to a county near you. The Healthy Grandfamilies Program is a series of free educational discussion groups geared towards Grandparents raising their grandchildren. The program includes 8-10 sessions on the topics of parenting, communication, self-care/stress management, legal issues, social media, public school programs and policies, family response to addiction, and nutrition. Many of the programs offer dinner and child care to participants.
Since 2016, the West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service has partnered with the WVSU Department of Social Work to offer the Healthy Grandfamilies project in the Greater Kanawha Valley. In 2018, the Harrison County Board of Education partnered with WVSU’s Bonnie Dunn to bring the program to Harrison County. WVSU’s Healthy Grandfamilies Program has received funding from the WV Department of Education to move the program forward across the state to cover counties that have not found funding on their own (such as the Harrison County Program). The goal is to roll the program out to all 55 counties. WVU School of Public Health is initiating the program in Monongalia and Preston counties. The program is slated to begin in Preston County on April 9 at the Terra Alta Senior Citizens Center. The program is also being started in Wood, Jackson, Wirt, Roane, Calhoun, Ritchie, Pleasants and Tyler by Sisters Health Foundation in Parkersburg. New River Health is working to begin the program in Fayette County. WVSU’s Bonnie Dunn continues to work to initiate the program in other counties.
Legal Aid of West Virginia (LAWV) has partnered with the WVSU Healthy Grandfamilies Program to teach the legal sessions for each program. LAWV will provide staff to teach grandparents how to navigate the legal system to provide stability for the children in their care. Angela White, LAWV’s Statewide Kinship Resource Attorney, will coordinate with agencies in each county to ensure the availability of LAWV attorneys for these presentations. This work is vital to the community as the number of children living with grandparents continues to grow. LAWV is excited to partner with community agencies across the State to educate grandparents on the legal issues that may affect them.