Grandfamilies — Overcoming Obstacles And Repeating The Parenting Process

The Utah County Grandfamilies program helps grandparents who have custody of children overcome stress-related obstacles and learn how to parent a new generation.

Both my girls moved out, I had just started up my own business and was adjusting to living alone but then suddenly it wasn’t going to be just me anymore,” said Rhoda, a participant in United Way’s Grandfamilies program. “I didn’t know where to go for help, so I called the Department of Child and Financial Services and they referred me to Grandfamilies.”

Rhoda is a single grandmother has full custody of her 4-year-old grandson and joined Grandfamilies in November of 2015.

Her daughter struggled with substance abuse for nearly ten years, a major source of stress and complication in Rhoda’s life and the reason she wants to stay strong for her grandson.

Grandfamilies is a support, advocacy, education, and crisis intervention program for kinship families. Kinship care is a term for grandparents or relatives who are raising a child because the biological parents are unable to do so.

In Utah, 82,820 children were reported as currently being raised by a relative. These children often come to their relative’s homes with a myriad of issues resulting from neglect and abuse by their birth parents. Likewise, kinship caregivers face legal, financial, physical, and emotional barriers.

Grandfamilies provides a 10-week educational and supportive class for both caregivers and children. A meal is also served at the classes so grandparents can have one night off from cooking — something Rhoda and her grandson look forward to every week.

“He’s always the one asking me if we’re going to Grandfamilies this week,” Rhoda said while talking about her grandson. “The lessons help him process the hard things going on in his life right now as well as giving him the chance to play with other kids in similar situations.”

Grandfamilies is unique because it is the only program in Utah that provides counseling and resources for kinship families regardless of income. Rhoda had a hard time finding help before she found Grandfamilies because her income just barely disqualified her for other assistance programs.

After joining Grandfamilies, her problems certainly haven’t gone away — but Rhoda feels she and her grandson are in a much better position to move forward.

The program has given her a support network with the people she shares class with, as well as resources she needs to get by in crucial times.

“It gives you peace of mind knowing others are going through similar things, and that you have people to go to if you need to vent,” Rhoda said. “When you’re hurting inside, the group sessions can be very therapeutic and give you the strength to focus on what’s important.”

Rhoda noted that once in class, her grandson was asked to draw a picture of his family and he drew a picture of just her and him. Tears nearly came to her eyes as she recalled something she learned in a lesson — that grandparents are the real superheroes who are saving the world.

Without the grandparents and other relatives willing to provide care, all of those children would end up in foster care.

That’s why, Rhoda said, it’s so important that programs like Grandfamilies exist so grandparents and other kinship providers can stay strong and carry on for their families.

Rhoda and her grandson plan on continuing working with the Grandfamilies program and hope others in their situation will consider joining as well. If you or someone you know would benefit from the Grandfamilies program, click here.



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