Healthy grandfamilies

Included within West Virginia’s budget bill passed during the last legislative session is $300,000 to expand the “Healthy Grandfamilies” program statewide.

The program, created by West Virginia State University, aids grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. The free initiative provides information and resources to the grandparents.

“This program fills such a vital need in our state,” said Del. Diana Graves, R-Kanawha, in a release. “As a result of the opioid crisis, West Virginia now ranks second in the country for the percentage of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

“West Virginia State University has put together this remarkable program to aid these families, and I am so happy we are now able to help them expand it statewide.”

Since 2016, the release said, West Virginia State University Extension Service has partnered with the university’s Department of Social Work to offer the Healthy Grandfamilies project. During that time, the groups have helped 125 grandparents in the greater Kanawha Valley.

During the program, the release said, grandparents participate in a series of free educational discussion groups on the topics of parenting, communication, health literacy/self-care, stress management, legal issues, social media, public school programs and policies, family response to addiction, and nutrition.

Groups are small – up to 18 people – and are held in venues such as churches, schools, and libraries in communities where participants live. Grandparents also receive social work support services, such as help locating community resources, confidential assistance in addressing unmet needs, and advocacy services.

To make the free program possible, West Virginia State University partners with several organizations, including the state Department of Education, West Virginia Legal Aid, Handle With Care, West Virginia Library Commission, the state Bureau of Senior Services, West Virginia University Extension Service, and several other community faith-based and nonprofit organizations.

“So many grandparents in West Virginia are essentially raising the next generation,” Graves said. “And because most of this older generation has been self-sufficient and never needed state aid before, they don’t know how to get the help they need as they tackle this huge burden.

“This free program can help them learn and find the support they need as they step up to become the primary caregivers for thousands of children all across this state.”

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