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. These partners work together across the county to provide these symposiums and served an additional 300 grandparents in North County Region, 150 in Central Region and 100 in South Region.
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.
YMCA of San Diego County’s Kinship Support Program annually partners with 2-1-1 San Diego and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency to host free Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Relative Caregiver Symposium events throughout the year.
North County Region
More than 300 people filled the North Inland Live Well Center in Escondido for the 8th Annual North County Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Symposium, including over 140 adults and 90 children. This year’s theme and program, “Growing Wings: Embracing the Beauty and Power of Change,” was brought to life through colorful displays and butterfly decor aimed to inspire and re-energize grandparents and other kinship caregivers caring for young family members. Event offerings included free childcare, professional family photos, blood pressure and dental screenings, shingles vaccines for adults age 50 and up, a safety disposal box for expired prescription drugs, and resources from over 30 different community organizations.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Writer began the day with an inspirational keynote address about coping with change and was followed by two additional speakers from High Definition People® and Recovery International who offered words of encouragement and strategies for attendees to help lead more peaceful, productive lives. Throughout the day, participants also had the opportunity to engage in free individual consultations with experts on topics such as Estate Planning and Individualized Education Plans. A sign-up table for free passes to Balboa Park, vouchers from County of San Diego Parks & Recreation, and opportunity drawings were also available for families.
The Annual Central Region Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Relative Caregiver Symposium was held on January 26, 2019 at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. Over 150 grandparents, relative caregivers, and children attended the resource fair, which included access to workshops and childcare.
San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox, County of San Diego Director for Central & South Regions Barbara Jiménez and City of San Diego’s Councilwoman Monica Montgomery welcomed attendees in the opening ceremony. Relative caregivers had the opportunity to visit resource tables held by over 40 organizations. Public Health Nurses attended and provided flu shots, HEP A vaccines and dental varnish. Workshops and presentations focused on vaping and tobacco prevention, ADHD and anxiety disorders, drug use and drug smuggling prevention, and individualized education programs. Food donations were provided thanks to Feeding San Diego, Serra Mesa Food Pantry and Abundant Grace Christian Center.
One attendee stated, "Very informative information on everything I’m facing in life. The struggles with my children have been answered today.” Another grandparent said, “I learned so much, and I’m amazed at the number of resources available.”
The Annual South Region Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Relative Caregiver Symposium was held on October 20, 2018 at Harborside Elementary School. Over 100 grandparents, relative caregivers, and children attended the resource fair, which included access to workshops and childcare.
San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and Harborside Elementary School Principal Lisa Forehand welcomed attendees in the opening ceremony. Relative caregivers had the opportunity to talk with 30 organizations that had resource tables to promote their programs and services. Public Health Nurses attended and provided flu shots, HEP A vaccines, and dental varnish. There were 10 workshops with topics such as guardianship and adoption, internet safety, drug use prevention, and more. Food donations were provided thanks to the support of South Bay Community Services and Feeding San Diego.
One attendee stated, “All of the staff and presenters were well-versed, knowledgeable, and helpful.” One grandmother shared that this was her seventh symposium and said, “my 15 year old granddaughter attends these symposiums with me with joy.”