Every year regional events take place across the county in support of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) and other Kinship families. The events are ways for families to build relationships with other kinship families in their area and provide them with support resources and educational opportunities. This year, the Health and Human Services Agency’s Central and South Regions decided to try something new and took their families to the San Diego Zoo. Their Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Zoo Enrichment Day was held on Saturday, July 16th and welcomed more than 100 kinship families, including over 400 individuals, from all over San Diego County.
“The zoo is a place that some of our families may not be able to afford to visit, especially if the grandparents or relatives are on a fixed, limited or low income,” explained Lizbeth Lopez, Intergenerational Coordinator for Central and South Regions. “We wanted to remind these families that they are not alone and that others have also made the decision to care for their grandchildren and relatives.”
This special enrichment event provided kinship families a private picnic at the zoo, with education about outdoor activities, outdoor play and a special animal encounter with an adorable albino hedgehog. County of San Diego Park Ranger Alex Wild gave a fun and engaging presentation entitled ‘Incredible Edibles’ designed to help families recognize and enjoy the many native plants found on local hiking trails. He gave families the opportunity to touch and smell sage, which the families enjoyed very much.
“It was important to have someone speak about activities that these families can participate in outside of the home because sometimes they don’t know where to take the children or don’t know what is available in the county,” said Lopez.
As an added delight, San Diego Zoo staff provided caregivers and their families with a live animal encounter. For many families, this was their first visit to the zoo. Through the animal encounter, they were able to see a variety of animals, including a penguin, ant-eater and an albino hedgehog. Following this private picnic event, families were welcomed to stay until 9:00 p.m. for Nighttime Zoo.
In addition to the activities above, the relative caregivers were able to visit resource tables set up by County Parks and Recreation and the Intergenerational Team to learn about other programs the county offers to support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and other Kinship families. Furthermore, the families also took home information on the 5-2-1-0 and the It’s Up to Us campaigns as well as other kinship enrichment events and resources.
The families were very happy to be at this event and expressed their gratitude and cheerfulness to County staff.
One grandmother shared, “Thank you to all who take the time to help out a very large yet underrepresented group in our society, it is amazing how many there are of us.”
Another grandmother shared, “We felt like real grandparents and not just caregivers. We’ve met several other GRG families and it feels so good knowing that we are not alone.”
“I am so happy the County was able to provide this event for these families,” said Lopez. “Everyone was extremely grateful for this event and was beyond happy to have been able to visit the zoo with their families and other GRG/Kinships families.”
For more information about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren events and resources, visit 2-1-1 San Diego.
For more information about the YMCA Kinship Program visit the YMCA website.
Families got the chance to meet an albino hedgehog during a special animal encounter!
County of San Diego Park Ranger, Alex Wild, entertaining the crowd