MASON COUNTY — Mason County Schools will be joining the Healthy Grandfamilies Program in March.
Healthy Grandfamilies is a program by the West Virginia State University for grandparents raising grandchildren. Jerry Warren, the special education educator for Mason County Schools, said the statewide program was created after the legislature realized the high number of grandparents raising their grandchildren in the state.
Warren said often times, those grandparents have little support and they are a generation removed from raising children. According to Warren, 3.9 percent of the students in Mason County are being raised by their grandparents. He said this is due to parents being incarcerated, addicted to drugs, death, etc.
Warren said the schools are currently reaching out to families that they know are in this situation. The program will begin in March and the organization will meet at the Trinity United Methodist Church on Thursdays. The grandparents participating in the program will choose the time that works best for them.
“There will be a lot of supports in place for them,” Warren said. “The hope is that they will have a support system of other grandparents.”
Warren said the topics of discussion will vary based on what the selected group needs to learn. Some of those topics include legal issues, custody, nutrition, trauma, the educational system, social media, and technology.
This year, the program can accommodate 15-16 grandparents. Warren said his hope is that next year they can have two programs and the location will rotate each year. Once a grandparent goes through the program, they are not eligible to participate next year.
Warren said this is not a school event, but it is a community event. Many of the topics will be led by experts in the fields, ministers and business owners. Warren said it is important to hold the sessions in locations that are not schools, which is why they choose the church and are thinking about senior centers in the future — because Warren thinks those are comfortable and friendly places for the grandparents.
Participation does not effect any type of benefits the families receive, according to Warren.
“We, in pubic education, feel the need for this,” Warren said. “And the legislation discovered the same thing.”
For more information, contact Jerry Warren at 304-675-4540, extension 49114.
Kayla Hawthorne is a staff writer from Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.