More than 125,000 children in Missouri live in homes where their grandparents, or another relative, are the heads of the household. What's more, nearly 50,000 of those kids live in homes where grandparents are the primary caregivers, and more than 20,000 have no parent present in the home.
The challenges created by such living arrangements are not negligible, but they are not insurmountable, either.
To address the problem, a group of community service agencies have banded together to host a day-long conference to offer support and practical information to grandparents who could use a little help. Some of the service agencies that are working on the project include the Jefferson City Public Schools, the Central Missouri Community Action Agency, the AARP Jefferson City Chapter, First Baptist Church, the Cole County Juvenile Court and the Central Missouri Foster Care & Adoption Association.
Titled "Grandparents and Kinship Caregivers Raising Families," the event is scheduled from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. April 24 at First Baptist Church, 301 E. Capitol Ave.
Karen Traylor, a counseling psychologist with ParentLink, will be the keynote speaker at the event. Based in Columbia, ParentLink provides parenting information, materials and other resources to strengthen Missouri's families.
The event also will feature six breakout sessions. Among the topics to be discussed include:
• School resources for students and families.
• Health care for each family member.
• You're not alone: Keeping a balance.
• Communicating with today's kids.
• Legal issues for caregivers.
• Overcoming financial challenges.
Harry Kennedy is chairing the organization of the event. Although Kennedy is a member of AARP, he said he got involved simply because he has a passion to help grandparents cope with the difficulties of raising a second family.
"So often grandparents have been out of circulation from the schools. But because of incarcerations, drug abuses and just difficult finances, their grandchildren are being brought back into their homes," he said.
While raising one's grandchildren can be rewarding, it can also be stressful, he said.
"We want to let them know they are not alone, and there are resources out there," he said.
Organizers hope this will be the first of several events, and they are also planning to grow a support group for grandparents out of the event.
This no-cost seminar will be open to the first 100 participants, and lunch will be provided. To register, call 573-634-3606.