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News // June 23, 2014

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Event Helps Connect CommunitiesWILDFIRE SAFETY AND PREPAREDNESS: EVERYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY

According to the five-year estimates provided by the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 22,066 grandparents raising grandchildren in San Diego County. Of these grandparents, 5,325 grandparents live in the County's South Region. The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren event on Saturday, June 21, 2014, brought together 328 attendees, including 128 grandparents and kinship caregivers, 78 children, 54 exhibitors, 40 entertainers, and 31 volunteers. Speakers included County of San Diego Supervisor Greg Cox; Health and Human Services Agency Central and South Regions’ Deputy Director,  Barbara Jimenez; Keynote Speaker, Pam Smith; and Grandparent Raising Grandchild, Connie Ruffier, who also introduced her grown-up grandson.

Participants had the opportunity to visit community resource tables and the Wellness Zone, where they were offered seven different health screenings. These screenings included depression, body mass index, bone density, visual, blood pressure and blood sugar. Participants also had the opportunity to watch healthy food and drink demonstrations conducted by South Bay Community Services through SNAP-Ed funding.

One of the main objectives of this year’s event was to help participants feel more connected to other grandparents and kinship caregivers in their community and to help them build a strong support network in South Bay led by grandparents and kinship caregivers. The event's networking workshop was an opportunity for grandparents to discuss their needs and brainstorm how they would want to support one another after the event. If they did not attend the workshop and preferred to provide their responses in writing, attendees were able to fill out a Support Network Questionnaire. 

Participants showed strong interest in creating a support network in South Bay. Many volunteered for leadership roles - as facilitators, promoters, or even phone tree organizers. They stated they wanted to create a supportive network that would allow them to do things such as clothing swaps, respite exchanges, and listen and give advice to one another. The first Support Network meeting is set up for Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Bonita-Sunnyside Branch Library and many participants expressed interest in attending.

Participants at the event also had the unique opportunity to participate in a “Meet the Expert” Café, where experts from Child Welfare Services, San Diego Youth Services, Family Resource Center, and the Guardianship Program where each set up in a different classroom.  Participants were able to rotate between the different classrooms and have their questions answered by the experts in a small group setting. When asked about the format at the end of the event, three experts stated they preferred this format over having a resource table, as this was more intimate and it provided participants with the opportunity to get their questions answered in greater depth.

Entertainment included Ballet Folklorico, directed by Martha Sanchez; the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory’s Community Opus project under the direction of Mario Miragliotta and Lowri Canion; and Resounding Joy as part of the closing ceremony that included the children in the room with their grandparents and kinship caregivers. Three music therapists aimed to involve the entire family and promote wellness through the art of music. 

When children returned from childcare for the Closing Ceremony, they presented their grandparents and grandchildren with a “thank you” gift they had created during their day. The gift was a family picture that was taken at the beginning of the event and placed in a frame that the children had decorated. Grandparents were moved as children provided them with this gift. For one women, this experience “made her day.” She became sentimental and expressed great appreciation.

Post event surveys indicated a 25 percent increase in “confidence navigating the services, programs, and resources in their community,” as well as a 25 percent increase in feeling more “connected to other grandparents/kinship caregiver in the community.”