The Healthy Grandfamilies Program offers free support for grandparents raising grandchildren

BUCKHANNON – The Healthy Grandfamilies Program, a collaboration between the West Virginia State University Department of Social Work and WVSU Extension Service, aims to assist West Virginians raising their grandchildren part-time or full-time.

The fall session of the local Healthy Grandfamilies Program kicks off Oct. 6 through Dec. 8. Each lunchtime meeting is held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Stockert Youth and Community Center on Main Street in Buckhannon. Childcare is provided so participants can fully experience the different speakers and classes on a variety of topics. The program is free of charge.

Sessions include information on:

  • Parenting in the 21st century
  • Family relationships
  • Communication
  • Technology and social media
  • Nutrition
  • Legal issues and documents
  • Health literacy and self-care
  • Healthy lifestyles and stress management
  • Negotiating the public school system
  • Family response to addiction

One grandparent who participated in the first session of the local Healthy Grandfamilies Program cares for her grandchild.

“What was great for me was being able to be with other grandparents who are in the same situation, learning what’s out there and just supporting each other,” she said. “All of the kids can come and get together, play and be with other kids, so they don’t feel like they’re the only ones that have to go through a situation, and then the grandparents can support each other.”

While attending the Healthy Grandfamilies Program, she was surprised to learn how many services were available after adopting her grandchild.

“I wouldn’t have had any idea what was out there if I didn’t go,” she said. “You can get legal representation — they had a lawyer come in and talk to us, and we didn’t even have any clue what our rights were. They help the grandparents and they know what’s out there when we don’t.”

She wants to reach more families in a similar situation to herself so they can benefit from the program as well.

“I’m sure it’s really needed in this county, because I know there are a lot more grandparents taking care of grandkids that don’t even know about the program yet,” she said, noting that the childcare aspect should not be overlooked. “I know there are several grandparents who want to participate in the program but wouldn’t be able to if there wasn’t somebody helping with the children at the time, because they have to bring their children with them.”

Another grandparent’s first session in the Healthy Grandfamilies Program took place online due to the pandemic, and then she participated in a second session in person.

“I get anxiety when I’m around a lot of people, so I thought about it, I read up on it a little bit, and the information that I came across made me think I should try this and maybe they could help me,” she said. “I did a couple of sessions, and I didn’t talk much because it was on my computer. I just listened and it came naturally — they knew what I was going through without me even having to say anything. Their stories were similar to mine, and it just felt right.”

She adopted her grandson when he was a baby, and he is now in kindergarten.

“I signed up for the second session because [Coalition Coordinator] Lori [Harvey] told me they would have a few different speakers,” she said. “The people around you knew what you were going through, they weren’t judging, so that’s why I did it again. I got more information because I feel the more you learn, the more that is going to help you in the long run.”

She also wanted to say the program is beneficial for anyone raising another child.

“Anybody who’s raising another child will get information with this group,” she said. “There is just so much to learn. Everything is different from when I raised my kids. My baby is 27 years old, so it’s completely different now, and just having somebody who you could talk to, and to listen to the speakers, that was my main thing.”

More information about the program can be found by calling the Upshur County Healthy Grandfamilies Coalition Coordinator Lori Ulderich Harvey at 304-473-1051 or emailing upshurfrn@yahoo.com. You can also click here to view the event on Facebook.

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