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Wood County Schools, program aids grandparents raising children

PARKERSBURG — Wood County Schools has teamed with nearly two-dozen agencies and community groups to offer a class for grandparents raising grandchildren.

The Healthy Grandfamilies Program was created in Kanawha County through the West Virginia State Extension Service, but is working to spread into other counties, said Cathy Grewe, director of counseling and assessment for Wood County Schools.

The district held its first grandfamilies class Wednesday at the Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club with about a dozen families represented. Grewe said the program will meet weekly for 10 weeks, with grandparents “graduating” at the end of the program and receiving a certificate of completion.

Grewe said the idea is to connect grandparents with services while addressing the unique challenges of a grandparent raising a grandchild.

“The grandparents participate in a series of educational discussion groups on different topics,” she said. “They meet in small groups held at various locations around the community. Childcare is provided and they also receive social work support services, not just for the 10-week program, but for three months after that.”

Wednesday’s meeting concentrated on navigating the school system and finding resources in the community. Grandparents learned about attendance requirements, special education, the Parent Education Resource Center, school counselors and intervention services.

Grewe said a variety of social, health and economic factors can lead to grandparents gaining temporary or permanent custody of grandchildren, and those numbers have climbed dramatically in recent years.

“Of the grandparents in attendance Wednesday, only one of them was raising one grandchild. The rest were raising 2-5 grandchildren each,” Grewe said. “These children often need special services or there is trauma attached (to the situation). Often the children come with no documents, so the grandparents struggle to even get a birth certificate. They often need financial help too.”

More than 20 agencies and groups are working with Wood County Schools to bring information and resources to the table, Grewe said, including area medical providers, mental health services, charities, and social and academic organizations. “It’s kind of amazing the way the community has come together,” she said.

Grewe said grandparents interested in more information or in participating in the program, contact Rachel Sutton at Children’s Home Society at 1-304-485-0650 or Cathy Grewe at Wood County Schools at 1-304-420-9663.

Michael Erb can be reached at merb@newsandsentinel.com.

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