To help people navigate these challenges, the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Services Agency South Region held a Grandparents Raising Grandchildren event on Saturday, October 17th from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School. The event brought together 219 attendees, including 85 grandparents and kinship caregivers, 67 children, 47 exhibitors, 20 entertainers, and 40 volunteers. Speakers included San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox; Health and Human Services Agency Central and South Regions’ Director, Barbara Jimenez; and Keynote Speaker, Lorena Avitea, from the ChadwickTrauma Informed Systems Project at Rady Children’s Hospital.
Avitea inspired the audience with her eye-opening presentation, “Real Life Superheroes: The Power Grandparents Have to Change the Course of Trauma in Their Grandchildren’s Lives.” In addition to discussing the impact that trauma can have on children’s lives and how it can impede their development, she also spoke about the pivotal role grandparents can have in the life of the child.
Grandparents/caregivers had the opportunity to attend three out the six workshops that were offered. The workshops aimed to empower grandparents/caregivers with important knowledge and skills that can help them with positive parenting, effectively articulating their needs in different settings, and potentially changing the system to better support relatives. In one workshop, the Support Networking Session, grandparents/caregivers were able to discuss networking opportunities in the community, particularly involvement in the South Region Grandparents and Caregivers Networking Group. This group, which was piloted after last year’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Event, is run by grandparents/caregivers and supported by the County.
In addition to the workshops, grandparents and other kinship caregivers had the opportunity to visit and connect with over 20 exhibitors that included legal experts, public benefits programs, support programs, children and youth enrichment programs and more. Free health screenings were also offered, along with entertainment that included Mariachi Azteca from Montgomery High School and the Soaring Eagles.
Furthermore, to combat the sense of isolation that many kinship families often experience, the event this year provided grandparents/caregivers with the special opportunity to write their name and contact information on a leaf that was hung on a tree that symbolized the Kinship Community. Grandparents and relatives who provided their contact information on this tree were choosing to become a part of a Grandparents/Caregiver Directory that will be developed and mailed out to them in the month after the event. This opportunity aimed to empower grandparents/caregivers by allowing them to be a phone call/email away from someone who like them, is raising a young relative. They will have the power to potentially form support groups, organize play dates, and/or simply feel comforted with the thought that someone near them has similar circumstances.
And lastly, this year, there was a major component added to the event that targeted youth between the ages of 16-24. In partnership with San Diego Workforce Partnership, a College and Resource Fair was held between 10am-12pm. The opportunity allowed youth to gain valuable tips for college, interact with employers, experience a mock interview, and have their resume professionally reviewed.
In addiditon to the youth component which aimed to support youth and help them thrive, South Region’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren event connected grandparents/caregivers to valuable resources, inspired them to be the best parents they can be, linked them to one another, and celebrated them for taking on these critical roles. Based on evaluation results, half of attendees report already coming to the event feeling very confident about navigating services, programs and resources in their community, but an additional 40% became more confident as a result of the event. Similarly, while 43% of attendees came to the event reporting already feeling very connected to other grandparents/kinship caregivers in their community; the sense of connection increased for 45% of the attendees.
The event was followed by a Garden Gathering for Kinship Families on Saturday, November 7th, between 10am-12pm, that allowed grandparents/caregivers and their families to reconnect, learn about gardening as a healthy outlet, and potentially participate in a season-long community gardening experience specifically for them.