Zach Hansen, Community Health Promotion Specialist, Health & Human Services Agency
San Diego grandparents who raise grandchildren had the chance to have fun, make friendships and build connections with others in similar situations at the Annual East Region Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Relative Caregiver Symposium, which took place on Saturday, April 6, 2019. YMCA of San Diego County’s Kinship Support Program partnered with 2-1-1 San Diego and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency to host the free event which served nearly 200 grandparents and other kinship families from all regions of the county.
More than 24,000 grandparents in San Diego County have the primary responsibility for meeting their grandchildren’s daily needs. That’s why, for the last seven years, the Health and Human Services Agency has been hosting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren symposiums around the county to provide resources, vital information and other tools to support grandparents and other kinship care providers in raising their grandchildren.
To support the theme of the event, “Building Resilient Children,” attendees watched the film “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope”, which explores how addressing stress and promoting resilience in individuals’ lives can positively impact health and well-being. Families received education on drug use prevention, special education, and adverse childhood experiences (ACES), as well as self-care techniques such as meditation, exercise, and stretching from different speakers throughout the County. The event created a space for attendees to foster connections with other families of similar lived experience.
The event was also a chance for grandparents to receive respite time for themselves as they attended the symposium. Fifty-one children ages 17 months to 15 years old were either cared for or attended a special “teen” program. Teens, ages 11-15, learned about mental health, engaged in a trauma-informed dance, and created vision boards to dream about and plan their future. At the end of the event one grandparent shared that this was the first time she had been able to get respite time for herself in months.
The event was successful with 96.5% of survey respondents rating it good or excellent in an event evaluation.
“I look forward to these events every year,” shared one attendee. “They help strengthen and refresh my abilities and give me motivation.”
Another shared, “the event was very informational and allowed me to be able to help my grandchildren. It makes me feel like we have hope.”
The Symposium was held at Foothills Church in El Cajon with volunteers from the County of San Diego’s East and North Central Regions Community Health Engagement Team, who coordinated the event, as well as employees who volunteered from Child Welfare Services and the El Cajon Family Resource Center.