Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Newsletter
August 2016
Dear Grandparents, Providers, and Friends of the Commission,

On behalf of The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and as the Co-Chairs of the Information and Referral Sub-Committee, we are happy to share with you some of the highlights of the Commission's work as we approach the half-way mark into 2016!  The Commission continues to focus on outreach and awareness about issues impacting grandparents and kinship caregivers, providing quality resources and articles for kinship families and for providers, and spending the time to listen and learn from families throughout Massachusetts as to how the Commission can better serve such amazing caregivers.  Please contact us with ideas, suggestions, or stories for us to share on our website www.massgrg.com or in future newsletters.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and stay safe!

Kerry and Skip

Newsletter contacts:

Kerry Bickford   kbickford81@comcast.net

Skip Stuck   skipnotearl@yahoo.com

2016 Conference for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Kerry Bickford
The 5th annual Commission sponsored conference on behalf of grandparents raising grandchildren in Massachusetts was, in our opinion AND yours, our best effort to date! The conference was filled to capacity at 190 people and, the only real problem was that we have outgrown our venue and have begun to research a new space that can accommodate these growing numbers more easily.
The day began with Chairman (and former state representative) John Lepper welcoming participants and giving a summary of the work the Commission has completed since we began in the fall of 2009. John then introduced vice chair Lynn Girton, who presented Julia Martin, a grandparent and community advocate in the Boston area, with our Harriet Jackson-Lyons Leadership award. Joining an elite list of past recipients including Harriet Jackson-Lyons herself, Angelo McLain (DCF Commissioner), Skip Stuck (Retiree CEO, Family Continuity and current Commissioner) and Sheila Donahue-King (EOEA), Julia graciously accepted on behalf of all the grandparents and grandchildren whose lives she has touched in her outreach.
The Commission also instituted a new award this year, when we realized that there are so many advocates for grand-families who deserve recognition. This new award will also be given annually, and is named after the first recipient, John Lepper! To say he was surprised and overwhelmed by this surprise recognition (the John Lepper  Advocacy award) is an understatement! As EOHHS Secretary Mary Lou Sudders put it, her favorite part of the morning was witnessing John, with whom she had worked for many years, receive this award!
Next, Secretary Sudders herself offered the keynote address, which included some poignant memories of her relationship with her own grandfather, as well as her plans to address the opioid crisis in Massachusetts, which has contributed to the grandparent-raising-grandchildren trend. This was followed by an eye opening presentation by Associate Commissioner of the Department of Public Health Lindsey Tucker, who offered a PowerPoint on the state's plan to reduce this epidemic in the state of MA. The entire presentation can be found on this website by clicking here DPH opioid powerpoint. DCF Commissioner, Linda Spears, also welcomed attendees and made her commitment to kinship families in Massachusetts clear by participating in the World Cafe discussion as well.
Finally, we were also joined by the First Lady of Massachusetts, Mrs. Lauren Baker, who is supporting the efforts of Governor Baker's "State without Stigma" campaign, and who graciously sat through the World Café table discussions to listen to what others had to say. We are so grateful to Mrs. Baker, Governor Charlie Baker, Secretary Sudders and Commissioner Lindsey Tucker for their focus on these difficult issues and their dedication to lead our state in programs, practices and general attitude changes that will strengthen the work that we all do with children and families. Thanks to all of them for making our work a priority in theirs.
The morning ended with a World Café discussion led by Commissioner John Laing that generated a rich conversation at tables around the room.
Participants seemed to enjoy the opportunity to share concerns and elicit discussions in a way that was comfortable and allowed them to participate without feeling inhibited.
After a delicious and relaxing lunch, participants went off to various afternoon workshops including Legal Issues and What Caregivers Need to Know, The Impact of Trauma on Children and Families, How to Create and Sustain a Support Group and The Importance of Mindfulness and Self-Care. Many thanks to Patricia Casey, Ilene Mitchell, Lynn Girton, Ruth Bodian, Doug Spicer, Margo Chevers, Milly Burrows and Jennifer Goldman-Fraser for lending their voices and expertise to these afternoon sessions.
Finally, Commissioner and Secretary Kerry J. Bickford, who acknowledged the collective effort of the group in making this a successful event - offered closing reflections, observations and remarks. She pointed out that the conference could not have happened without the ongoing efforts of our Commissioners, and our newly hired Coordinator, Colleen Portion, who was able to give it the time and focus it needed in order to make it worthwhile and educational. We are already looking forward to our next conference, which will be held in June 2017. 

Working Together for Massachusetts Grandfamilies
Agency Collaboration Meeting

Skip Stuck

Since the Grandparent's Commission's first series of listening tours in 2009, it has tried to take its lead from the grandparents and other relatives who undertake the challenges and joys of caring for children who's parents are unable to do so for a myriad of reasons. Often, selflessly putting aside their own dreams of retirement and taking on financial hardship, they impact, and literally save the lives of thousands of children. They quickly find that when they need help, there is no simple, one-stop answer. Instead, they soon come in contact with the complex and sometimes bewildering array of public entities, social service agencies, courts, schools, law enforcement, mental health and income support services. Navigating this system, finding and engaging the help they need, continues to this day to be the most often heard challenge they face. Likewise, these agencies want to help, but often have very little understanding of how their services are viewed by, and impact kinship families. 
On June 15, 2016, the Grandparents Commission took an important first step in sorting out what is for many grandfamilies the daunting task of finding the help they sometimes need.The Commission invited the public and local stakeholders that grandparents most often come in contact with and convened a meeting to examine how we could work together more effectively to help.  A three hour session shared information about the Commission and the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren. Following introductions and an overview of the commission, each participant shared their experience provided feedback and suggestions from their experience, and contributed to a series of recommendations as to how to work more effectively together to serve these families. In all, 23 people attended, representing the Commission and 13 public entities took part. (See Agency Collaboration Meeting attendance list and Summary at the end of this article) 
It was a tremendous day, during which everyone learned a great deal about the needs of grandfamilies, and how we could better work together to support them. More importantly, and perhaps the greatest takeaway was everyone's personal commitment to this process and the hard work of collaborating to make the support system more seamless and supportive. The 3 hours was hardly enough time, and everyone requested that this not be only a one-time event. The Commission will sponsor at least one follow-up event this year and will continue in contact with the participants better coordinate services and educate kinship families regarding available services.
To learn more about the discussion, who attended, and specific resulting recommendations, follow this link (Agency Collaboration Summary) to read the meeting agenda and recommendation summary.

                                Coordinator's Corner                              
notebook_coffee.jpg                     Colleen Pritoni                                           
Since starting as the Commission's Program Coordinator in January 2016, I have enjoyed meeting with so many grandparents, kinship caregivers, and providers throughout the Commonwealth.  Support groups from all over have welcomed me from Turners Falls, Westfield, Taunton, and Wakefield.  I have also met with agencies and programs working with grandparents such as DCF in Braintree, probation officers in Norfolk County and Worcester Probate Court, and Family Resource Center staff from Lowell, Quincy, Fall River, and Amherst.  I have been able to share information about the Commission and distribute copies of the Tip Sheet Series which was produced by the Commission and revised in April 2016.  More importantly, I have listened to many who still have concerns regarding legal issues, the need for more support groups and the need for more resources such as child care vouchers and housing.  It is clear that the opioid epidemic has impacted kinship families significantly and families are desperate for information and resources.  Each time I have met with a group I have learned something new and I bring this all back to the Commission.  The Commission intends to use this information and your feedback to determine the best course of action towards legislative and policy improvements on behalf of grandparents raising grandchildren throughout Massachusetts.

If you are interested in having me or a Commissioner visit your support group or your staff, please contact me at colleen.pritoni@state.ma.us

***2016 Updated Website***


Just a reminder that the Commission website was updated this spring.  On the website, you will find numerous resources, articles, and the Commission's "Tip Sheet Series" (available in English and Spanish) as well as other useful information.  
What to Watch For......
The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is partnering with the Attorney General's Office to conduct an "Information Exchange Listening Tour" this fall throughout the Commonwealth.  Grandparents, kinship caregivers, providers, and friends are encouraged to attend and share their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions to the Commission and the AG's Office 

Events have been scheduled in Pittsfield, Greenfield, Worcester, Westfield, Lowell, Boston, Bourne, and Dartmouth.  

More Information will be coming out soon!
For your "Pleasure Reading"
Check out these articles from Grand Magazine
Attached are two articles that grandparents and kinship caregivers may find helpful to review:


Contact Information:

 The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren:

600 Washington Street  6th Floor

Boston, Ma.  02111




Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren | 600 Washington St., 6th Floor | Boston | MA | 02111