By Bonnie Floro, executive director of Children’s Aid Society in Clearfield County
A 60 Minutes piece on television last week talked about how the opioid epidemic across the United States is resulting in an increased number of grandparents responsible for raising their grandchildren.
The show highlighted the work of the “GrandFamilies” program in Salt Lake City, Utah and noted that many grandparents are putting off retirement plans and jumping back into full-time parenthood in order to provide food, shelter and necessities for their grandchildren.
Small towns in rural Pennsylvania are not immune to these issues. According the most recent statistics from grandfamiilies.org, a collaboration between Generations United, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and Casey Family Programs, nearly 89,000 Pennsylvania grandparents are living in the same household and responsible for their grandchildren.
Over 32 percent of those have no parents present. U.S. Census statistics estimate that in 2014, 4,834 children under 18 in Clearfield County lived with their grandparents. Of those, 1,591 had no parent present in the home.
Like GrandFamilies in Salt Lake City, Children’s Aid Society sees these issues firsthand. The agency has been providing support for grandparents raising grandchildren through its Relatives As parents program (RAPP) since 2010 through grants from the Brookdale Foundation.
This funding initiative is designed to encourage and promote the creation or expansion of services for grandparents and other relatives who have taken on the responsibility of surrogate parenting due to the absence of the parents.
Although parental drug addiction is not the only reason that grandparents find themselves raising their grandchildren, it’s a contributing factor in many of the families we serve.
The main component of RAPP is a monthly support group where grandparents and other relative care providers can share their struggles, setbacks and successes of parenting a second time around; receive support from peers; learn to navigate the social services system and gather information about available community resources.
The groups meet the third Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at Children’s Aid Society in Clearfield and every first Monday at 6 p.m. at the Glendale Valley Church of Spirit and Truth in Coalport. Child care is available and a light dinner is provided.
For more information, call Christina at 814-765-2686, ext. 236, or firstname.lastname@example.org.