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FamilyConnections The BC Council for Families Magazine  Fall 2012

 the grandparenting issue  working with vulnerable families requires skills

pg. 14

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren pg. 10

reader review: intentional grandparenting pg. 6

The Important Role of Grandparents

pg. 18

Council for Families


editor  Tina Albrecht art director & design  Tina Albrecht contributors Annie Phung, Christina Campbell, Cara Hykawy, Marianne Drew-Pennington, Sharon Clayton, Tina Albrecht, Veronica Grossi subscriptions By membership with the BC Council for Families. Family Connections is published four times per year by the BC Council for Families. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Council, its members or funders. #208 – 1600 West 6th Ave Vancouver, bc v6J 1R3 t 604 678 8884 e Established in 1977, the BC Council for Families is a registered non-profit society. Registration #0488189-09-28

volume 16, issue 2  fall 2012

Focus 10 Grandparents Raising Grandchildren – Services, issues, and advocacy Are we doing enough to support grandparents who are raising their grandchildren? Parent Support Services Society of BC shares some of the stats and facts surrounding this demographic. Christina Campbell 14 Working with Vulnerable Families Requires Skills Practitioners have a unique opportunity to mitigate family vulnerabilities and affect change. However many practitioners feel challenged and are not supported with relevant training or resources. Marianne Drew-Pennington

Departments 3 From the Editor’s Desk

issn#1195-9428 officers of the society Sylvia Tremblay · President Paula Cayley · Vice President Joel Kaplan · Executive Director board of directors Gail Brown · Interior Connie Canam · Vancouver Coastal Paula Cayley · Vancouver Coastal Bella Cenezero · Fraser Deb Day · Island Tim Fairgrieve · Vancouver Coastal Kathy Kendall · Interior Lynn Locher · North John Thornburn · Fraser Katie Tichauer · Vancouver Coastal Sylvia Tremblay · Fraser Bev Wice · Interior Victor Zhou · Vancouver Coastal © 2012 BC Council for Families

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4 News & Notes The Council gets a new Executive Director, our annual conference is set to be an amazing learning experience and new resources for parents experiencing separation and divorce are released. 6 Toolbox Reader Review: Intentional Grandparenting: A Boomer’s Guide and a few books that you might like to share with your grandchildren. 8 Connections Veronica Grossi, Program Coordinator at Volunteer Grandparents 17 Good to Know Grandparents are more relevant than ever in our lives. 18 Balancing Act The important role grandparents play as historians, storytellers and so much more.

From the Editor’s Desk

With the fall just around the The needs of grandparents raising their corner it is easy to get a little grandchildren seem to have fallen under down by the thought of the loss the radar, for years Parent Support of summer's warm sunshine. However Services Society of BC has been working I like to think of the fall as an amazing to put these needs into the public eye. transitional time for planning and Most recently, Parent Support Services preparation and eventually growth. These Society launched its Grandparents Raising are the types of transitions that will keep Grandchildren Support Line, find out all us growing, changes that you might not the details on page 10. see from that outside but definitely see from the inside. Here at the Council we These types of vulnerable families not have been experiencing these types of only face challenges themselves but so do changes and growth and it is with pleasure the practitioners who work with them. that we announce that we are under the In 2011, the BC Association of Family leadership of a new fearless leader, Joel Resource Programs (page 14) surveyed the Kaplan. Joel comes to us by way of the field and identified the top training needs Jewish Family Service Agency in Vancouver. practitioners required. Turn to page 4 to find out all you need to know about Joel and his experience. Finally, on page 18, our summer intern Annie Phung, shares with us her Similar to changing seasons, as individuals thoughts on the importance of the role of we also experience changes throughout grandparents. the life-cycle and in this issue of Family Connection we will focus on As you leaf through the pages of Family grandparenting. While the particulars of Connections I hope that you find this issue the grandparent role have changed over interesting and informative. Thanks for the years the one thing that has remained reading. As always, if you have comments, constant is the importance of that role. questions, or suggestions about anything Within this issue we will focus on a you read in Family Connections, just drop few of the challenges that are faced by me a line at grandparents today. On page 8 we talk with Veronica Grossi of Volunteer Grandparents, an organization that brings together people over the age of 50 with children who lack the immediate presence of grandparents or older adults in their everyday lives.

Tina Albrecht, Editor

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News & Notes

Joel Kaplan, Executive Director, BC Council for Families

Growing and Changing The Board of Directors of the BC Council for Families is pleased to announce that Joel Kaplan has taken on the role of Executive Director for the provincial non-profit organization. With Joel in this position, the Council will continue to support and educate family serving professionals in BC, and to disseminate information and advocate for families. As a strategic executive with over 30 years of experience and service, Joel most recently held the position of Executive Director at the Jewish Family Service Agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Joel has had many years of experience working in the Non-Profit sector internationally and will bring a wealth of experience and guidance to the BC Council for Families as we plan for the future. His proven ability to manage and create programs while accessing unique sources of funding will help us to continue to serve our families for many years to come. He holds a MSW from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and has repeatedly demonstrated his skills and abilities in several previous executive positions. The BC Council for Families, a provincial non-profit family-serving organization founded in 1977, is committed to advocating for prevention, promotion, and early intervention as a valued and essential part of supports and services to children, youth, and families. The programs and services that the Council offers assist in strengthening families in BC. If you are interested in joining the BC Council for Families Board of Directors or learning about volunteer opportunities please contact Joel at or call 604-6784  Family Connections  Fall 2012

8884 ext 234. The BC Council for Families is located at 208-1600 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver BC. For more information about the BC Council for Families, see, or call 604-678-8884.

brings an array of speakers on topics such as financial literacy and preventing retraumatization all the way to “The Road Less Traveled” presented by Dr. Sukhi Muker. The keynote speaker this year Adrienne Montani, First Call’s Provincial Coordinator, brings the stark reality of child poverty to the family policy table. “BC’s child poverty rate has been the highest rate of any province for five consecutive years”. With a full day of presentations, breakout sessions and discussions on thoughtprovoking ideas all geared toward improving families, this conference is definitely an opportunity worth taking. Come join us in October to teach, learn and create change.

Keynote speaker this years annual conference

Kids: The ❤ of Co-Parenting

Adrienne Montani, First Call’s Provincial Coordinator

There’s no doubt that the numbers around divorce in Canada can be hard to swallow. But with this reality comes a rise in co-parents and stepfamilies. This is why it is important for professionals working with families to be informed about the changes in family trends and how they can be a positive support during these challenging times as families are experiencing these changes. This year, the Council had the pleasure of featuring keynote speaker Susan Gamache on the topic of divorce, separation, co-parenting and stepfamilies at our Annual General Meeting. Susan is a registered Psychologist and Family Therapist and has much insight to offer in this often-times difficult transition. In her article Stepfamily Life… And Then Some, she outlines the reality of today’s families and

Finding Common Ground: Programs, Partnerships and Policy to Build Healthy Families. What better way to enter the fall season, or any season for that matter, then with a focus on healthy and happy families! This October, the BC Council for Families is hosting its annual conference all about building healthy families: Finding Common Ground: Programs, Partnerships and Policy to Build Healthy Families. Conference organizer, Pilar Onatra has a thought-provoking and refreshing lineup of speakers, interactive learning and professional development skills training. Taking place at the Hilton Hotel in Burnaby on October 19 and 20, 2012, this conference

the challenges that children, co-parents and stepparents face when navigating through new family structures. Her insights are of great importance to those working with separating families and can aid in better understanding and supporting them. (Susan’s article Stepfamily Life… And Then Some can be found on the Council’s website) Another family champion whose work in the area of divorce, separation, co-parenting and stepfamilies is Sandy Shuler, a Registered Social Worker and Certified Canadian Family Life Educator. The Council delivered the workshop Kids: The ❤ of Co-Parenting featuring Sandy as she spoke about her experiences in dealing with families going through divorce and separation. The Council is proud to offer a new online resource, a video in which Sandy speaks about this progressively important topic!

Watch the video on youtube As an organization that is dedicated to helping and supporting families, in all shapes and forms, the BC Council has produced some resources for those parents seeking some help or support in their arena of co-parenting.

Downloadable tip sheets providing families with co-parenting solutions and strategies are available on our website! (Download Kids: The ❤ of Co-Parenting tip sheets)

We ❤ Grandparents! And because we ❤ them, here is an entry from our Healthy Families Blog all about grandparents. Support for Grandparents and Kids by Cara Hykawy I have great memories of the time I spent with my grandparents as a child. On weekdays, while my parents worked, both sets of grandparents shared an alternating schedule of babysitting me. For families who live close to one another, those kinds of caregiving arrangements can be rewarding for everyone concerned – kids, grandparents, and parents. But although grandparents seldom anticipate having to raise their grandkids full-time, currently nearly 10,000 children in BC are being raised by their grandparents. Taking on the responsibility for caring for their children’s children can be stressful, and the financial, emotional and legal issues can prove overwhelming. Grandparents acting as full-time caregivers for their grandchildren may have lots of unanswered questions, and not know where to turn for help. Now, funding from the Ministry of Children and Family Development for the establishment of a Grandparents Raising

Grandchildren Support Line and email support means that grandparents in BC can get the help and advice they need. The phone line, operated by experienced advocates at the Parent Support Services Society of BC, will help full-time caregivers understand their rights, their obligations and the benefits, supports, and resources available to them, as well as how to access those supports. In a press release issued by the Ministry, Barbara Whittington, a professor in the school of social work at the University of Victoria, called the line a "solid step toward truly supporting extended family caregivers." The support line and email support might just allow grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren to spend less time becoming overwhelmed or stressed regarding caretaking issues, and more time creating good memories of time spent together. Call the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Line at 604-558-4740 if you’re in the Lower Mainland, and 1-855474-9777 (toll free) anywhere else in BC. Or email the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Service at The help line will operate province-wide, Monday to Friday, for five hours each day.

Fall 2012  Family Connections  5


reader reviews  What

 Sharon Clayton

have you been reading lately? To contribute a review, contact us at

Intentional Grandparenting: A Boomer’s Guide

Edwards and Mary Jane Sterne, McClelland & Stewart When their book Intentional Grandparenting: A Boomer’s Guide was first published in 2005, Peggy Edwards and Mary Jane Sterne had 14 grandchildren between them. In 2012, the head count has grown to 20 grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and another baby expected soon. To prepare for co-writing their book, the authors conducted interviews, facilitated discussion groups and interpreted questionnaire results. They must have done it right the first time – no changes were made when the book was republished as a large print edition in 2009. The contents of the book are easily summarized by the names of its chapters, which describe the authors’ Ten Principles for Effective Grandparenting: 1 Determine What Kind of Grandparent You Want To Be 2 Respect and Support the Parents 3 Be Open To New Possibilities 4 Embrace Diversity 5 Be Accepting, Empathetic and Positive 6 Be Playful and Spontaneous 7 Be Consistent, Reliable and Fair 8 Stay In Touch 9 Be Organized But Flexible 10 Take Care of You

 Peggy

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The book’s recurring theme “Then and Now” is backed up by research studies that compare the way today’s grandparents were raised, how they raised their children, and the way their grandchildren are being raised now. The authors write with compassion and wisdom about cultural, racial and religious issues, as well as blended families and samesex unions. They include many anecdotes describing situations in which several potential or actual conflicts were either resolved, or not. Each chapter ends with touching and funny anecdotes. My favourite is a story about a seven-year-old boy who surprised his grandmother by making her a morning cup of coffee. “She drank what was the worst cup of coffee in her life. When she got to the bottom, there were three of those little green army men in the cup. She said, ‘Honey, what are these army men doing in my coffee?’ Her grandson said, ‘Grandma, it says on TV “The best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup!” Because I always hit the mute button during TV commercials, it was only several hours later that I actually got the punch line. The book’s appendix provides several pages of lists for further research into books, web sites and organizations about grandparenting, child development, parenting and families, safety and active play, and cyber-grandparenting.

The book is available in print and an e-reader edition, and can be borrowed from libraries, as an interlibrary loan, if necessary. has both the 2005 and 2009 versions, but many of us would rather support our local bookstores. We can also buy the book for $25, including a $4.00 donation to the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers Campaign, by sending an email to Mary Jane Sterne at And to keep up with current grandparenting issues, check out the Peggy and Mary Jane’s monthly column in Fifty-Five Plus Magazine.

reader reviews:

Books to share with grandkids


Hush Little Baby

 Jo

 Sylvia

Ellen Bogart and Barbara Reid, Scholastic Canada Ltd. I like this book so much that I always keep a copy in my gift-giving box. In our overly materialistic world, it reminds us that what children need most is our affection, time for undivided attention and enthusiasm. Gifts is about a globetrotting grandma who, before each trip, asks her granddaughter. “What would you have me bring?” The little girl asks for things that aren’t expensive: ”Not much,” said I. “Just a piece of the sky, and a hundred songs I can sing.” By the end of the story, the grown-up granddaughter, pushing her baby in a stroller, says, “My gran had such a wonderful time, that now we are going too. And everything she gave to me, I’m going to give to you.” Barbara Reid, my favourite illustrator of children’s books, brings Gifts to life with her delightful Plasticine paintings. If you haven’t seen her work, you’re missing something that should not be missed.

Long, Chronicle Books Sylvia Long’s little board book Hush Little Baby is a joy to sing to babies and toddlers. The author has rewritten the traditional old song and created the book’s gently whimsical illustrations. The story begins with “Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to show you a hummingbird.” The last page shows Mama Bunny cuddling her little one as she says, “If that banjo’s out of tune, Mama’s going to show you the harvest moon.” On the inside of the book’s back cover, Sylvia Long writes that she changed the lyrics to Hush Little Baby “to encourage children to find comfort in the natural things around them” rather than promising to buy them things like a mockingbird or a diamond ring. I couldn’t agree more!

 Sharon Clayton

 Sharon Clayton

Sharon lives in South Surrey, BC. She has 5 genetic grandchildren: the eldest are high school-aged twins - a boy and a girl. The youngest are two-and-a-halfyear-old identical twin girls, and the singleton is their eight-year-old brother. In 2012, Sharon applied to Burnaby's Volunteer Grandparent Society to be matched with her 13-year-old hospice client whose mother died early in 2011.  Becoming a Volunteer Grandparent has been so much fun that Sharon wishes she'd done it years ago.  She says that of all the career hats she's worn in her 67 years, her Grandmother hat fits her best - it's well worn and very comfortable.  

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Veronica Grossi Program Coordinator at Volunteer Grandparents

Volunteer Grandparents has been a know the children involved in our programs trendsetter and leader in intergenerational but also the parent or parents. Some of relations for almost forty years, recognizing my volunteers have little experience with seniors in leadership roles. The organization children so need additional support with brings together people over the age of 50 planning creative activities and engaging the with children (from ages 3 to 14) who lack youth. Sometimes it is reported that the the immediate presence of grandparents or grandchildren are distracted by social media older adults in their everyday lives. The and technology so occasionally I need to intention is to create a mutually beneficial remind the parents that distractions (like relationship which resembles an extended video games, phones, tv) should be avoided family, leading to more healthy and when our volunteers are spending quality wholesome lives for all of those involved. time with the family. Sometimes it is a The society initiates new intergenerational challenge just to coordinate times to meet programming and supports existing up as these days children tend to be enrolled intergenerational programs in the community. in many extracurricular activities. Likewise, Veronica Grossi, Program Coordinator at my volunteers are very active and often times Volunteer Grandparents is a firm believer have busy schedules themselves. in the power of volunteering and it was through her experience in various volunteer fc: How common is social isolation for seniors? roles that she developed a strong interest in Is it becoming more or less prevalent? families and health promotion. In 1999 she vg: I haven’t done a lot of research about attained a post-baccalaureate diploma in the the change in prevalence of social isolation field of Gerontology from SFU. Working with but I can say the more personal connections Volunteer Grandparents has enabled her you acquire throughout your life the less to mesh her educational studies regarding likely you will be socially isolated. Many of seniors and family to her employment my volunteers begin volunteering in their experiences with youth and families. mid 50’s to early 60’s and are generally quite Veronica has been the program coordinator healthy and active. As time goes by and if at Volunteer Grandparents for over 5 years. there health declines the families tend to offer additional support when needed. family connections: What are some of the new issues and challenges that grandparents fc: What factors are important to take are facing today? into consideration when setting up an veronica grossi: Once matched, our intergenerational program? volunteer grandparents need to take the vg: A few of the factors that need to be time to build rapport and let the relationship considered are: develop at a natural pace. It must be • Initial planning; ascertain a need or remembered that they are not only getting to gap in service 8  Family Connections  Fall 2012

• Identify how volunteers can help with leading a project • Create a budget • Create screening measures • Ensure you have someone who is good at managing volunteers • Support the connections • Document your outcomes In our organization, volunteers must complete a rigorous screening and application process, be available for 2–3 hours a week, and commit to volunteering with a family for at least one year. Eligible families must have children between 3 –14 years of age, live in the Lower Mainland, have no accessible grandparents, and complete a registration process. When a family match is made, we follow-up with the volunteer and the family every 3 months to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. fc: What are the benefits of an intergenerational program? vg: Connecting generations provides opportunities to bring young and old together; share experiences and learn; understand and share cultural values while building positive relationships between generations. Social interactions are a necessary and enriching part of our lives, and sadly, seniors often feel socially isolated when their loved ones have passed on and they outlive their friends. Volunteer Grandparents provides seniors with the ability to network socially, adopt a family, receive the support of others, give and receive friendship and companionship with children, as well as benefit psychologically and emotionally from

Volunteer Grandparents provides seniors with the ability to network socially, adopt a family, receive the support of others, give and receive friendship and companionship…

positive interactions with others. Here are three different case histories: In addition, Volunteer Grandparents provides seniors with the opportunity to share Case History #1 their wealth of knowledge and experience “When I first became a Volunteer Grandparent with the receptive, enquiring minds of back in 1988, Michelle was five years old, children. In short, the Family Match program and Elise was three. Over the years I have provides seniors with the opportunity to be an enjoyed the usual things that a grandmother important member of a family, enabling them enjoys with her grandchildren. I have so many to share time, love, skills and life experiences, fond memories of reading stories together, while offering families the support, love and watching soccer games in the rain, and wisdom of caring seniors. celebrating special occasions. Most of the events were part of my ‘expectations’ when I c: How do intergenerational programs benefit fist decided to become involved in volunteer those involved? grand parenting. What I did not expect were vg: Intergenerational programs: the things like getting to know the friends • Provide opportunities for both age groups to of the girls as they grew up, and being there learn new skills and about each other when they all graduated from high school • Give children and youth and the older adult a together. The honour of being named as sense of purpose and meaning to life Michelle’s God Mother was also unexpected. • Keeps family stories and history alive The biggest surprise though, is the bond that • Invigorate and energize older adults has developed between myself and the girls’ • Reduce likelihood of depression and social Mother. Today, 18 years later, I’m still Granny isolation among the elderly and the younger Lucy to Michelle and Elise, and I can’t imagine generations my life without them.” • Seniors can help a child develop a positive – Granny Lucy self-esteem and overall confidence in life by providing positive feedback, guidance and Case History #2 praise “I believe it was about 7 years ago that Alfred • A senior can provide a sense of stability in a (my husband) and I applied to you for a life of a child volunteer granddaughter and a wonderful match was made when Olivia was just 3 years fc: What kind of feedback do you receive from old. She is now going on eleven! She is a participants in intergenerational programs? lovely girl, very bright, does well in school vg: We receive positive feedback from all and has many friends. She has brought much of our participants: children, parents and happiness into our home and her mother our senior volunteers. The connections that has told us how much she herself had gained develop can become very close. from our relationship. We have done many activities together such as: painting, drawing,

and playing imaginative games. We have danced together, played together and talked together. I want to thank Volunteer Grandparents for making such a splendid match. Your work is very important.” – Grandma Joan Case History #3 “At age 22, my volunteer granddaughter Brittany is now married, continuing her university studies and keeps in touch regularly. Some 13 years ago I was anxious at becoming an “instant” volunteer grandmother to a very bright and inquisitive little girl. But over the years we spent wonderful times together and became very close. It was such an honour to be part of Brittany’s wedding as her “Grandmother!” I’ll always cherish the time we spend together and the future that is yet to come. Thank you to Sharry Lund for a wonderful match.” – Diane fc: How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the programs? vg: When a family match is made, we follow-up with the volunteer and the family initially, and at the 3 month, 6 month and one year mark of the match to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. We also have an annual social event to get everyone together and acknowledge our volunteers. Periodically we survey our participants to ensure our mission is being accomplished and we try to implement the program suggestions to continually improve our programs and services. Fall 2012  Family Connections  9


For 38 years, Parent Support Services Society of BC (PSS) has worked tirelessly to protect the safety and well-being of children and to promote the health of families by providing support, education, advocacy, research and resources to those in a parenting role. Increasingly, those in the parenting role are grandparents. The number of grandparent-headed households has been on the rise in the last 15 years .

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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren – Services, issues and advocacy  Christina

According to the 2006 Canadian census, there are over 65,000 grandparents raising grandchildren (GRGs) across the nation. In BC, close to 10,000 children are being raised by a grandparent – more than the number of children in the foster care system. In 2004, PSS began working collaboratively with the University of Victoria’s School of Social Work including work on the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Legal Research Project. Results from a legal research survey were telling: about 85% of respondents reported that a crisis situation led to their raising their grandchild(ren);


52% of respondents had grandchild(ren) placed with them by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD); 54% of respondents changed their employment status as a result of raising their grandchildren; 52% of respondents reported grandchildren with a physical, mental, emotional or behavioural challenge diagnosed by a professional; 80% of respondents received no financial assistance from the parents; and 70% of respondents had an annual gross income of less than $50,000 (in BC, the annual income of grandfamilies is approximately half that of a nuclear family with children).

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Services This collaboration with the University of Victoria led to the creation of a resource manual for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) and their support workers, Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (2006, 2007), followed by the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Legal Guide (2009) . In addition, two Grand Gatherings took place on Vancouver Island in 2005 and again in 2008. These were conferences that brought grandparents and grandchildren together from across the province to connect, learn, and share. Fall 2012  Family Connections  11


…services like the GRG Support Line enable us to better understand the GRG community, with all its diversity, and to identify the challenges, supports, and barriers facing these families.

PSS has developed a variety of GRG support services and resources over the past 16 years. GRG Support Circles are facilitated self-help groups which provide grandparents with a safe environment in which to talk, lend and receive support and information, and share ideas and experiences with others. Sometimes they get together to laugh, be creative or simply play together with the children; sometimes they gather to learn new skills from community “experts”. In 2011 PSS hosted a third “Grand Gathering” in New Westminster as well as our first overnight family adventures to the Nature Conservancy on Galiano Island. Grandparents always feel quite relieved to know that they are not alone. Currently, PSS offers 11 support circles for grandparents in the Lower Mainland, Victoria and Central Vancouver Island, and Prince George and hosts annual GRG picnics in several regions. Most recently, PSS launched its Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Line in February of this year. This toll free provincial line is for all kinship caregivers and is staffed by two part-time social workers with training in advocacy, family law, and government services pertaining to kinship caregiving. The support line is currently available Monday, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11:00am to 3:00pm at 604-55812  Family Connections  Fall 2012

4740 (Lower Mainland) or 1-855-74-9777 (toll free anywhere in BC) or by e-mail at Staff can assist grandparents and other relatives raising children, to navigate complex service systems such as MCFD; to find the answers, the assistance, and the resources they need to prevent or solve problems, and to learn about benefits and other services that will support the whole family. For grandparents connected to the Internet, the PSS GRG e-mail list keeps recipients up-to-date on the news and issues pertinent to kinship families. It also provides an avenue for a voice in government policy development and feedback to the systems that affect their lives. And, our website is also a resource in development; a site where information and resources for GRGs is just a click away. In the near future, we plan to offer a closed discussion forum online for grandparents to connect, share, and organise. Issues Significantly, services like the GRG Support Line enable us to better understand the GRG community, with all its diversity, and to identify the challenges, supports, and barriers facing these families. Collecting and sharing this knowledge can be effective tools for advocating for the systemic changes necessary

for strengthening supports and addressing areas of injustice. The following information is based on a total of 115 calls and 69 e-mails received between February 1st and May 31st 2012 by the GRG Support Line. The predominant theme amongst callers, identified as most pressing, was the need for greater financial support. In general, the majority of families inquiring about financial supports found the available benefits grossly insufficient. In addition, many grandparents expressed feeling pushed to take custody or participate in permanent care plans for their grandchildren without a clear understanding of the committed supports available to them. A strong sense of fear and distrust of MCFD staff was expressed by many callers as well as a desire for greater transparency/clarity when negotiating kinship care agreements. On March 31, 2010, the Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) program – the primary financial benefit for kinship families – stopped accepting new applications. CIHR is administered by the Ministry of Social Development and provides families remaining “on the books”, a monthly benefit ranging from $257.46 to $454.32 per child and, for eligible families, health and school start-up supplements. Rate amounts are determined by the child’s age and benefits are not income

Connect with readers. Connect with families. tested. MCFD stats from April 2010 show that 4,492 families were receiving CIHR at that time. Around the same time, MCFD introduced the Extended Family Program (EFP). The EFP provides a family member raising a child a monthly benefit ranging from $554.27 to $625 and, for eligible families, supplemental benefits for start-up expenses, informal respite, formal respite, transportation and training. Like CIHR, rate amounts are determined by the child’s age and the benefit is not income tested. However, unlike CIHR, EFP has stringent eligibility criteria. For example, the caregiver cannot be the child’s legal guardian, the parent(s) must be actively involved, and the circumstances that prevent the parent from caring for the child must be temporary. MCFD stats from April 2010 show that 182 families were receiving EFP at that time. Critically, MCFD figures for June 2012 show that 2,584 families are receiving CIHR benefits and 412 families are receiving EFP benefits. These figures indicate that significantly fewer kinship families, roughly 1,500, are receiving financial assistance through kinship benefits. Advocacy In addition to providing individual advocacy for GRGs through the GRG Support Line, PSS actively searches for constructive ways to change and improve policies, services and resources for kinship care providers. For example, plans are underway, thanks to funding from The Law Foundation of BC, for a series of legal seminars that will inform caregivers on their rights and options. We also have outstanding recommendations for MCFD policy makers to consider that are based on the experience of the grandparents. A representative group of GRG meets semi annually with MCFD policy staff to highlight the need for essential reforms. One of the most frequent requests from the GRG Circle members and facilitators is for training in self advocacy. In part this is because of the limited availability of family law advocates in the province and the changes to legal aid coverage. PSS also has suggestions for the Ministry

of Health as part of the consultation process on the creation of an Office of the Seniors’ Advocate. At its best, an Office of the Seniors’ Advocate could ensure that GRG issues are brought to the attention of decision makers, leading to improvements in policy, legislation and service provision. When it comes to policy development, often GRGs are an invisible demographic and raising the prominence of GRG issues is key to creating change. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and the inequities and obstacles they face, cannot remain invisible or ignored. Simple and affordable remedies abound. Decision makers and community members at large may need to explore the attitudes and assumptions that get in the way of positive change and welcoming inclusion and resources for these families. Research and experience fully support kinship care as the best alternative for children when their parent’s home is not an option. PSS is committed to working side by side with grandparents and other relatives and their allies to bring about the changes and the justice these unique families so heartily deserve.

Advertising in Family Connections is a great way to showcase your events or services. Family Connections helps you get your message out to family service professionals all across BC. special member rates To book your advertisement, contact: Tina Albrecht, Our next ad deadline is October 30, 2012.

HealthyFamilies!  Christina Campbell

Christina works part time as an advocate answering the calls on the Grandparent Raising Grandchildren Support Line. She’s a UBC graduate with a Masters in Social Work and has practiced community development in East Vancouver, Nigeria and Jamaica. She’s a busy parent of two preschoolers and loves to garden, knit and read.

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14  Family Connections  Fall 2012

Working with Vulnerable Families Requires Skills  Marianne Drew-Pennington


here are 268 Family Resource Programs feel challenged and are not supported with programs such as StrongStart Early Learning (FRPs) in BC. Located in communities relevant training or resources. Centres. Community programs that provide throughout the province, FRPs bring In 2011, the BC Association of Family an environment which welcomes families, together parents/caregivers and their young Resource Programs decided to survey the building respectful relationships should children in community based family places field and identify the top four training needs universally enable parents to address their where parents socialize while interacting in practitioners required. Feedback indicated issues and lay the groundwork for solutions. their children’s play. The programs reflect that most were confident with supporting Working in a Family Resource Program is the diversity of the community, and services families through minor transitory issues complicated. Families are comfortable and are designed to strengthen parenting skills, and were very comfortable linking families trusting. They do not believe they are being provide stimulating play environments for to community resources. They also felt observed or targeted, and practitioners children and promote family and community knowledgeable about child development respect their trust. Supporting the vulnerable engagement. Seventy-five percent of which they confidently share with parents must be done carefully and with buy-in. Family Resource Programs are located through various programs and resources. The bond between the practitioner and in communities of high vulnerability. On On the other hand, over seventy per cent the parent is the first step to identifying average, families attend a Family Resource questioned their capacity to serve those issues. What is vulnerability or a risk factor? Program six times a month for eighteen families experiencing vulnerabilities. Does being a single parent automatically months. During these hundred and eight Practitioners questioned their ability to either put a parent in the risk category requiring visits, practitioners have the opportunity identify risk factors and/or to link parents with extra attention? One would hope not. On to engage with and provide individualized relevant supports and services. An alarming the other hand, practitioners do have a support to families whose issues range from situation when it is realized that over six responsibility to ensure that the children breastfeeding to abuse. Practitioners working thousand families with young children attend in their programs are safe from abuse and in FRPs and other parent / child interactive Family Resource Programs in British Columbia neglect. “Vulnerable”: can be defined as a programs have a unique opportunity to each day. And although there is no hard condition that needs more attention than mitigate family vulnerabilities and affect evidence, one can assume the situation may what is normally delivered – this can be any change. Unfortunately many practitioners be similar in other parent child engagement issue from discipline and child development Fall 2012  Family Connections  15


to neglect. It is important to recognize that all families incur some form of vulnerability and require support at some point. Identifying the appropriate response and action is an essential skill for practitioners. Vulnerabilities can be short term such as job loss or permanent and potentially life altering such as parental mental illness. Establishing and sustaining relationships with parents, informally assessing family needs and promoting opportunities for family development through deeper parent engagement and connection to programs and community are the goals of the

Focusing on the Working with Vulnerable Families and Communicating Effectively themes, curriculum has been developed for two workshops to address the following Learning Outcomes: 1 Describe a working definition and overview of the term “vulnerable families” 2 Understand that all families have some form of vulnerability and require support; and gain awareness in identifying appropriate response and action 3 Understand empathy is essential to a helping and supportive relationship; as well as

Services strive towards collaborative service delivery, and cross sectorial training and professional development to build a core set of skills. Family Support worker. Practitioners may be confronted with complex ethical and legal practice issues that demand careful consideration before actions are taken and strategies implemented to assist families in need of support. In practice, many situations in family support work defy easy solutions. A plan of support developed in concert with the parent should build on existing family strengths and include the provision of concrete resources, connections to informal or social supports, allocation of professional assistance, and referral to or recommendation of a variety of program components to address the parent’s needs. On the other hand, it must be recognized that family support workers are neither social workers nor psychologists. Skillful work requires skill training. FRP-BC has committed to developing a workshop series to address practitioner training needs. Using the field survey to identify key training needs, FRP-BC has selected four themes. 1 Working with Vulnerable Families 2 Communicating Effectively 3 Engaging Parents as Mentors 4 Planning and Evaluation

16  Family Connections  Fall 2012

communicating genuineness and congruence 4 Communicate with sensitivity and an understanding of cultural differences and family diversity is necessary 5 Understand the role the FRP practitioner plays in supporting parents while ensuring their children are safe, including practitioner’s role in advocacy and/or reporting to the appropriate authorities 6 Demonstrate ability to work in partnership with the family and specialists such a social worker or mental health professional to contribute to family strengthening goals 7 Identify a community resource list of programs and services available to assist vulnerable children and families and demonstrate skills required to access them and refer effectively. But training in isolation is inefficient and costly. Children and/or their parents and families are supported and engaged within a range of universal as well as targeted programs which are often delivered with partnerships. The BC Association of Family Resource Programs intend to link FRP practitioners to training developed by others and to invite practitioners from related sectors to participate in the FRP developed workshops. Services strive towards collaborative service delivery, and

cross sectorial training and professional development to build a core set of skills. • Joint staff training and professional development creates a better understanding and focus on common skills and knowledge (FRP Canada, 2011); • Improved clarity regarding professional roles and scope of practice, and effective communication, information sharing and case management/planning practices. • Maximizes resources All who engage with a child and parent/ family can have an influence on the outcomes. With this in mind, there is a heightened importance of professionalization/training of those who work with all families but particularly the vulnerable. The Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs (FRP Canada) reports that, “Children’s well-being cannot be separated from their families. While a close relationship with a warm and nurturing teacher can have very beneficial results, it is the family (for better or worse) which will continue to have the greatest influence upon the child for his or her whole life.”

 Marianne Drew-Pennington

Marianne serves as the Executive Director of the BC Association of Family Resource Programs. She has a long history in the field of family resource programming and related sectors. She began her career teaching in an inner-city school in the United States where she experienced the unfortunate reality of the impact of neglectful parenting on children’s development. Marianne has served on numerous committees and boards both provincially and federally.

Good to Know

In today's world, grandparents as a source of support and family traditions may be needed more than ever. While the challenges of grandparenting have evolved, the role remains one of the most satisfying and joyful periods of one's life. – Grandparenting in the Twenty-First Century - The Times They Are a Changin', OHPE Bulletin 434, Volume 2005, No. 434

Quick Facts What do grandparents in Canada look like: • The average age of grandparents is 65 (80% of women and 74% of men this age were grandparents) • 68% of grandparents are married while 18% are widowed, 10% are divorced, separated, or never married & 4% are living common-law. • 53% of grandparents are retired, nearly one-third (30%) are in the labour, and 11% state their main activity as home makers or childcare providers • In 2001 grandparents had, on average, 4.7 grandchildren. Multigenerational Households In Canada today, grandparents are most likely to live in a separate household from their adult children and grandchildren. Yet some homes do contain both grandparents and grandchildren. • Nearly 4% of Canadians lived in multigenerational households (households with at least three generations including grandparents, parents, grandchildren)

• Across Canada’s province, multigenerational households are most common in British Columbia (4.9%) and Ontario (4.8)% and least common in Quebec (1.6%). • Multigenerational households are more common among the immigrant population. Less than 3% of people who are Canadianborn live in multigenerational households, compared with 7% of those born outside Canada. Life in a Multigenerational Household • Over half (51%) of grandparents in shared homes lived with their adult child, his or her spouse and grandchildren. The name “club sandwich” or “sandwich” generations describes the middle generations, who care for both children and elderly parents. • About 158,200 of grandparents in shared homes live in a household where the middle generation are a lone parent. Grandparents who share a home with a lone parent tend to be younger than their counterparts in two-parent households. • Nearly 191,000 children in Canada aged 0

to 14 live in the same household as one or more grandparents. • 56,700 grandparents live in skip-generation households with only grandchildren and no middle generation. Finances and Multigenerational Household • 16% of grandparents in multigenerational households where the middle generation is a couple are primary financial providers. • 50% of grandparents in multigenerational households where the middle generation was a lone parent are primary financial providers. • In skip-generation households, where there are no parents present in the home, nearly two-thirds (65%) were financially responsible for the household. Source Statistics Canada, the 2001 Census and the 2001 General Social Survey. http://www. dq031209b-eng.htm

Fall 2012  Family Connections  17

Balancing Act

The Important Role of Grandparents From historians to storytellers and carriers/passers of family traditions and knowledge grandparents seem to wear many hats.


or many of us, the word ‘grandparent’ grandparents’ balancing act. and storyteller. These stories are necessary conjures up the image of a kind and The BC Council for Families is highlighting in order to receive passed-down traditions, loving older adult figure that one the extremely important role that customs, and even recipes. can always obtain a hug from. But beyond grandparents play in the lives of their family Imagine not knowing where your family this stereotypical image of cookie-baker members in this issue of Family Connections. came from, or how to make that oh-soand cheek-pincher, grandparents play an Understanding their contributions and famous strawberry rhubarb pie (or like in my extremely important role in the structure of significance to the family is the first step in family, spring rolls, a Vietnamese appetizer a family. They are in a unique position in the appreciating and reaping the full benefits growing in popularity). A grandparent’s role family hierarchy, able to be directly involved of having a grandparent. The second part, as a historian is one of their most important in grandchildren’s lives, without (usually) which involves striking a balance in roles, ones because it helps secure the family with being the sole caregiver. Grandparents expectations and relationships, is to open a sense of belonging and attachment to the are continuously balancing their roles as lines of communication about parenting styles past. The real juggling act is that, along with historian, storyteller, tradition-keeper (and and boundaries. Here’s to happy and healthy being an important provider of family history, passer), friend, comforter, and authority families, including grandparents! a grandparent also tends to be a friend and figure, among many others. comforter. Some of us are fortunate enough As I spent my one-week summer vacation to live within the same municipal radius at my partner’s grandparents house, I as our grandparents, or even within a few witnessed the variable roles that grandparents blocks. This means that a problem perhaps play first-hand. I conducted an interview not best presented to mom or dad can be with Charmaine and Roger, and as Charmaine aired out to the receptive ears and welcoming began by describing her first date with Roger, arms of a grandparent first.  Annie Phung he would intermittently interject from the However, an important and all-too-real Annie is a recent graduate from the University of British background with pet-names like ‘Chickeeissue that can arise from grandparents Columbia with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science. Char-Mane’. She then moved on to recalling providing advice, support, and help to their She has a keen interest in combining her love for baby stories about my partner, Levi, which grandchildren is where the line is drawn Families Studies and her background in public policy made him blush profusely while I giggled to in terms of parental authority. A matter of to help improve family policy in British Columbia. She myself. Even though Charmaine is not my contention that some families have with completed a summer internship at the BC Council For own flesh and blood grandparent, I felt a their grandparents has to do with differing Families and wants to continue to work with family sense of connectedness through her words. parenting styles and lack of authoritative champions throughout Canada. This is demonstrative of how powerful a boundaries between mom/dad and grandma/ role a grandparent can play as a historian grandpa. This adds another aspect to the 18  Family Connections  Fall 2012

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Family Connections Fall 2012  

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Are we doing enough to support grandparents who are raising their grandchildren?Working with Vulnerable F...