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Family Service seeking registrants for next Grandfamilies Program

Times West Virginian - 1/21/2020

Jan. 21--FAIRMONT -- While people may become parents during a certain range of agents, becoming a grandparent can encompass an even broader range of ages.

So when many grandparents in West Virginia end up taking in their grandchildren to house and raise, they may not have any colleagues who are in the same situation they are in.

"We have grandparents that come into the program at different levels," said Candace Golaszewski, a social worker with the Family Service of Marion and Harrison Counties. "They're at different stages in the process of turning into the primary caregiver of their grandchildren."

Working for the Family Service of Marion and Harrison Counties, Golaszewski helps run the Healthy Grandfamilies Program, which aims to aid these caregivers in navigating modern childcare. She ran the first class of the program last fall, and the organization is preparing to host another session for a new group of grandparents in March.

"We discuss the differences from that era to today's era that these children are going through," Golaszewski said. "We're trying not to overwhelm them with a whole bunch of knowledge, trying to make it easy to have the activities to where they can slowly get themselves communicating with each other, let alone their family, their kids.

"Because when was the last time they were taking a class?"

The class is free to take for grandfamilies, and each session consists of a guest speaker from an agency relevant to parenting who will talk about their work, and how they can be of service to the grandparents. The grandparents also get to connect with one another, and throughout the session, they can become closer allies who help each other through difficulties.

"I don't think a lot of people know about our program, it's pretty new," said Mendy Paugh, coordinator of Healthy Grandfamilies of Marion and Taylor Counties. "We don't want the groups to get so big that they aren't comfortable freely talking to each other. The more intimate group allows them to express themselves better."

The group meets from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday at the First Church of the Nazarene in Fairmont, according to Paugh. Paugh also said that the Family Service looks for aid from local groups and restaurants for food donations, to provide the class members with dinner at each meeting.

"It's not canned food, we need meals that are actually prepared for them," Paugh said. "By providing the meal and the childcare, it gives the grandfamilies opportunities to bring the kids and the kids are entertained while they have their discussion. By being able to provide them a meal, that also alleviates them from having to come home from work and get a meal ready."

The purpose of all this, Golaszewski said, is to create a stress-free environment, because she and the other coordinators of the program understand the difficulties they face in life each day already.

"We provide a meal and we provide childcare," Golaszewski said. "We're trying to make that as easy as possible; the least amount of speed bumps to make sure that they are capable and able to come without worrying about how to find a babysitter."

Once they get through the program, the grandparents also get access to a support group that continues to meet, as well as a social worker who keeps in touch with the class members. Golaszewski said that this support it the reason for the class and everyone involved is dedicated to providing aid to these grandfamilies.

"The whole purpose of this program is to provide them community support," Golaszewski said. "They're going to get it from a social worker, they're going to get it from individuals out of the community that are presenting that care about what they're doing; they're going to get it from other grandparents that are there and want to help other grandparents."

Paugh said she believes that any knowledge these grandparents can get could be helpful to their situation, and she encourages anyone in this situation to try the free class just for an attempt. She said she, too, can relate to the information taught in this program, because she understands the differences between her generation and the upcoming one.

"As a new grandmother myself, the generation that my grandchild will grow up in with the media is so much different than what I grew up in," Paugh said. "As a grandparent, I could see just where the technology and social media classes would be tremendously helpful for them, let alone all the others."

Paugh said the Marion County school system will send out applications to grandfamilies who may be interested in taking the class, but others interested in more information or registration can contact the Family Service of Marion and Harrison Counties at 304-366-4750.

Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

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