Are You Raising Your Grandchild?

J.D. O’Gara
New Support Group at Franklin YMCA Welcomes Kinship Caregivers from Surrounding Towns; Provides Babysitting
Issue Date: 
November, 2019
Article Body: 

If you are a grandparent raising your grandchildren, you’re not alone. Over 30,000 grandparents are raising grandchildren in the state of Massachusetts, according to the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. For these grandparents, as well as kinship caregivers in the Franklin area, a new support group aims to provide information, resources and support. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a free group, meets on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month at the Franklin location of the Hockomock Area YMCA, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Light refreshments are provided, and child care for children aged eight weeks and up is available for the meeting (just call (508) 528-8708 if you need child care for the meeting.)
The support group is a collaboration between the S.A.F.E. Coalition, the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and the Hockomock Area YMCA.
“I can tell you firsthand, at my age, how difficult it is,” says Poulten, of the S.A.F.E. Coalition, who coordinates the program and who has served as a kinship caregiver to an infant. “It takes up your entire life.”
Poulten explains that the situation of raising a grandchild often comes out of the blue. “The challenges are enormous, with so many different levels that you don’t find when you have your own children. You worry about the children – sometimes they’re alive, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re not allowed to have contact with their children. You wonder how to separate concerns for your adult child from those for your grandchildren. A lot of grandparents think they’re going to be retired, and they’re not working. Suddenly, there’s financial stress, time stress, physical stress, because as you get older, it’s not easy. All of a sudden, you need to worry about child care, doctor visits, school clothes. It’s something you really want to do – rewarding – but very difficult. I had help, and I was totally exhausted,” says Poulten, 67.
Support groups, says Poulten, “make you feel better, to vent and know people understand.” Since many grandparents and other kinship caregivers are feeling overwhelmed and can find it difficult to even muster the energy to get to a group, the child care really comes in handy.
“The YMCA has trained staff and a child care center, and they add staff if there are too many kids,” says Poulten. “You don’t have to worry about babysitting or about money.”
In addition to providing an ear for grandmothers, grandfathers and others who are raising children not their own, Poulten adds that the bi-weekly group also offers information on resources.
“Everybody’s situation is different,” she says. “Some people go through DCF, some people go through the courts – depending on which way you go or your relationship to your kids makes a big difference in what services you get,” says Poulten, who is also a trained social worker who served as an adjustment counselor in Medway for 35 years. One example of such resources, says Poulten, is a grant that the S.A.F.E. Coalition and Wayside got to help school-age children who have been affected by substance abuse in their homes.
“Kids are embarrassed their ‘parents’ are older, that they don’t have a mother or father, that they’re different. There are so many issues the kids are dealing with,” she says. Alternately, some grandparents have parents of their own they’re worried about, in addition to their adult children and their minor grandchildren. “It’s constant stress,” says Poulten, but knowing about different resources helps.
“I have so much compassion for these grandparents,” says Poulten. “They’re doing an impossible job, but it’s so loving, and they’re having fun doing it.”
For more information on the support group, which, again, meets 6:30-7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at the Bernon Family Branch YMCA at 45 Forge Hill Road in Franklin, email Meredith at [email protected].