When Wright State University women's basketball coach Bridgett Williams was growing up, being raised by her grandmother made her family structure fairly unusual. Today, more than 85,000 grandparents across Ohio are raising their grandchildren, and Williams will share her own experiences with some of them at a special event this weekend.
On Saturday, Sept. 20, at 10 a.m., Williams will address the Trotwood Grandparent and Other Relatives Support Group at the Dayton Metro Library Trotwood Branch.
The group is open to the public and holds monthly meetings to enable grandparents and other non-parents who are raising or providing substantial care for children to share information, encouragement, and support. The meetings also provide an opportunity for attendees to consult with kinship navigators, trained community workers who can help them access resources such as health care, legal, housing, counseling, and social services.
Supported in part by the Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services, kinship navigators are provided through the Kinship Caregiver Coalition, a consortium of more than 40 health and social service organizations overseen by the Center for Healthy Communities within the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. Since 1998, the coalition has worked to address a growing need for services to support those who become responsible for raising a relative's child.
"The reasons for parents relinquishing their role are varied," said Dionne M. Simmons, program director of the Kinship Caregiver Coalition and co-vice president of the Ohio Grandparent Kinship Coalition. "They can include divorce, death, teen pregnancy, incarceration or drug and alcohol use."
"Relatives may accept custody to keep children out of the foster-care system or at the request of social service agencies," Simmons added. "There are not enough non-relative foster care families available, and research has shown that children do better when they are with relatives."
In addition, the growing ranks of single and working parents have led many grandparents and other non-custodial relatives to play a greater role in children's upbringing, Simmons said. Helping them to manage a critical, but often unexpected or unwelcome, responsibility is a primary goal of the coalition and the support groups it organizes throughout the region.