Extension Supports Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren

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A woman smiles at her grandchild.There is a growing need for grandparents and other relatives to step up as caregivers for children who are not being raised by their parents. According to The Annie E. Casey Foundation there was a 3% increase during 2021-23 in the number of NC children who are in kinship care families. These families often experience financial concerns and have limited knowledge of available resources. They may also experience feelings of isolation as they work to navigate the social services, school, financial, medical, and legal systems that are required as they ‘parent’ their grandchildren. Generations United reports that 2.5 million children in the U.S. live in grandfamilies without a parent in the household, and that 25% of these families experience food insecurity, more than twice the national rate. They also cite research demonstrating that these children often thrive when raised by relatives or close family friends.

N.C. Cooperative Extension addressed the needs of grandfamilies by sustaining and supporting the Broad River Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (BRGRG) Support Group and Advisory Board, which celebrated their 16th anniversary in 2023. New volunteers and partner organizations were recruited to coordinate educational programs for the families, and grant funds and other resources were secured to support the program. Advisory board members, Extension & Community Association members and other volunteers planned and delivered age-appropriate programming for two children’s groups throughout the year. Programs for adults focused on food insecurity, emergency preparedness, food and fire safety, finances, advance care planning, cyber security, and summer fun and family activities. BRGRG participants also participated in the community health assessment as a focus group and completed individual surveys. Grandfamilies were also informed about area resources available to them.

Following support group meetings, grandfamilies reported accessing the community resources they needed. Grant funding and individual donations helped provide participants with educational program extenders including personal information notebooks and file containers, fire extinguishers, boxes of groceries, farmers market gift certificates, and household cleaning and paper goods. Two kinship care children were provided scholarships to attended 4-H Camp Millstone, like other BRGRG youth in years past. Participants learned ways to strengthen their family by participating in fun family activities like end-of-school and back-to-school events, the Cleveland County Fair (complementary tickets), anniversary and holiday celebrations, complimentary family photos, and family dinners. Charitable gift cards and holiday gifts for children helped participants to extend their family’s budget.

One family that has participated for about 13 years (since their granddaughter was around 2 years old) sent a personal thank you note expressing their appreciation to each and every one for their time teaching and caring over the years. They also pointed to many of the opportunities they and their granddaughter have had to learn new things and make new friends. “We have all grown in many ways. As you know, it takes a village. Thank you for being a big part of that. You all have made a big impact on our lives and you make the world a better place.” they shared. This testimonial speaks for staff, advisory board, and volunteers…we are all enriched by our work with BRGRG and getting to know these special kinship care families.

Written By

Nancy Abasiekong, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionNancy AbasiekongExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences Call Nancy Email Nancy N.C. Cooperative Extension, Cleveland County Center
Updated on Jan 5, 2024
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