In 2014 staff at The Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center in Antrim, New Hampshire were seeing and hearing about area families who were raising grandchildren. Together with the River Center Family Resource Center, we created a support group for grand/kinship families, who came and shared their stories, bringing their challenges to light. To talk to others that had a similar experience was validating, comforting and created a sense of shared experience and community.
Says Melissa Gallagher, Executive Director of the Grapevine:
Giving a safe space and place for kinship families to come and share their stories with support and without judgement exemplifies the work of a Family Resource Center. We are locally based, in touch and responsive to the changing needs of our families and community. We realized how many people were caring for a young relative or knew someone that was and that we could help. The early members of this group were incredibly courageous to put themselves out there and share what they were dealing with. Some went on to become mentors to others in this situation. Indeed, we were one of the first groups of its kind in NH and we have served as a model to other communities who have sought to offer support for these families.
Nationwide, 7.8 million children are being raised by grandparents and other relative caregivers* and not without a host of challenges that come with the job. Some of the reasons children are being raised by their grandparents include parental substance misuse, military deployment, incarceration, mental or physical illness or death.
The challenges these caregivers face are varied, complex, and often overwhelming: a new responsibility that is often sudden and traumatic, requires greater financial needs, work with the courts to establish legal rights, consideration of housing issues, and addressing mental health issues when mental health support for children can be hard to find. It is a 12-hour a day (or more), 365 day challenge. Add a pandemic, personal safety concerns, restrictions on movement, and online classrooms, and I can only imagine the weight these families carry day in and day out
Additionally, recent US Census data** reveals the following about grandparents and other relative caregivers parenting their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children of friends:
Over the years, kinship caregivers from our community have presented at conferences, given interviews for the media, served on the NH Senate Commission to Study Grandfamilies, received awards for their work, impacted legislation, shared their stories and been a driving force behind support for kinship caregivers and families.
In the fall of 2019, NH Children’s Trust began their work as the Facilitating Organization to establish Kinship Navigation sites in each of the state’s Family Resource Centers (FRCs), including the Family Connection Centers in the Department of Corrections, to support the challenging work of relative caregivers. Now even more of those FRCs are working together to offer virtual support to those who are Parenting a Second Time Around (PASTA).
Six New Hampshire Family Resource Center are collaborating to bring Parenting a Second Time Around (PASTA) to relative caregivers as a way to provide support and resources. This Cornell University program supports relative caregivers to build skills, relieve stress and care for themselves while caring for others. The curriculum also provides information about repairing and rebuilding family relationships.
Participants will meet virtually via video in small groups for six weeks, every Thursday evening at 6:30 to 8:00pm from Jan 28th to March 4th. They will meet with other families who have also experienced going to court, supporting children with remote learning, the financial challenges of buying new clothes, and figuring out how to be with their own children's life challenges. Additional PASTA group sessions are being planned so to meet the need of grandfamilies and other relative caregivers.
“My role as kinship navigator puts me in the position to support families who care for the children of their children,” says Seren Elizabeth Kinship Navigator for The Upper Room in Derry, NH. “The PASTA program offers more than just a place to hand out gift cards and connect to local services, it offers a community for folks to know that in their journey, they are not alone. There are many families that look like theirs, and I have come to learn, that is what they’ve been looking for.”
Join us for a discussion on the joys and challenges grandparents face, hear from other grandparents/relative caregivers and learn about some of the resources.
To learn more about the PASTA program, visit www.nhchildrenstrust.org/pasta
Michelle Kolias (Kinship Navigator)- Community Action Partnership of Strafford County Family Resource Center - Rochester, Dover
Carol Lunan and Rosemary Nugent (Kinship Navigator) – Grapevine Family & Community Resource Center, Antrim
Mandy Carter (Kinship Navigator) The River Center – Peterborough
MaryLou Beaver (Kinship Navigator), The Children's Place and Parent Education Center, Concord
Jennifer Conn (Kinship Navigator), Waypoint, Manchester
Brittany Daley (Kinship Navigator), Healthy Starts at HCS, Keene
*Statistic provided by Generations United
**Generations United General Facts Sheet