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Healthy Grandfamilies program to return in June 2022 as support network for older adults raising grandkids

BUCKHANNON – The Healthy Grandfamilies program will return this June.

Lori Ulderich Harvey, executive director of the Upshur County Family Resource Network, said the program will start again on June 8 at the Upshur County Recreational Park pavilion, i.e., the pavilion behind the Upshur County High School football field. The program will kick off at 11:30 a.m. for lunch and a presenter will speak from noon to 1 p.m.

“We will have childcare provided, and it’s very informal,” Harvey explained. “We’re here for the grandparents and to get them the information they need, whether it’s as a group or as an individual. We will continue having meetings every Wednesday until Aug. 10.”

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The program began at West Virginia State University, in response to the growing number of grandparents raising their grandchildren.

“We have such a high rate of grandparents formally or informally taking care of grandkids,” Harvey said. “They’ve already raised their kids, and now they’re back in a totally different environment trying to raise their grandkids. Some are great grandparents trying to raise the grandkids, so we have sessions on parenting in the 21st century, legal issues, navigating the school system, communication, how addiction affects families, self-care and health literacy. If you have a question and if we don’t know the answer, we find the answer to it, or if you’re having an issue, we help you get through the issue.”

She said previous grandparents that participated in the program benefited from having a group of people going through the same experiences.

“The grandparents we’ve had in the past have really enjoyed being around other grandparents in the same situation. It has become an informal support group and we really encourage talking and sharing the high points, the low points – we’re there for all of it,” Harvey said. “Even if we have a grandparent that’s going through something, we will stay over and talk to them as long as we need to.”

The program is open to any grandfamily taking care of a grandchild, no matter the situation.

“That does not mean that they need to have custody or formal care — it can be full or part-time care, that’s it,” Harvey said. “We don’t look for anything like that, we don’t ask for anything like that, we’re there to help them. We want to make sure that they’re getting the best information from the experts that we have each week.”

The meetings will also return to a purely in-person model after going online due to the pandemic.

“It should be in person because the new parks director Jeremiah (county parks and recreation director Jeremiah McCourt) allowed us to use the park pavilion,” she said. “They donated the use of it because it has a bathroom; we’ll be outside and can social distance. We should be fine even if cases go up, so we were doing it in person and there’s no virtual this time.”

Interested grandfamilies will need to register with the Upshur Family Resource Network by calling 304-473-1051 or emailing upshurfrn@yahoo.com by May 27.

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