November 27, 2002 | By: Laura Skillman

With the increasing number of grandparents raising their grandchildren, the need for information to help them deal with the role change is also increasing.  A recent workshop in western Kentucky was an effort to provide support.

The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Family Resource and Youth Services Centers in the Purchase area, Purchase Area Development District, and the area’s Agency on Aging sponsored the workshop.

Calloway, Ballard, Graves, Carlisle and McCracken county Extension offices were involved in the Nov. 19 program, with grandparents coming from the eight-county Purchase area, Crittenden County and Southern Illinois, said Nancy Snook, McCracken County Extension agent for 4-H/Youth Development.

“This is the first conference of this magnitude,” she said. “Several of us, particularly in Calloway, Graves and McCracken counties have been working with some existing grandparent support groups. We’ve also gotten involved with the Agency on Aging and were familiar with similar conferences in northern Kentucky. So we wanted to bring those support groups together to show them what other resources are out there that may not be in their county but are available to them.”

Grandparents have a lot of frustrations with some of the resources, Snook said. So conference organizers wanted to help address some of these such as custody and guardianship; health and safety issues; maintaining emotional health for relatives rearing

children; strategies for school success; family court; and where to go for resources.

Part of the conference also showcased the parent support groups so that other counties may want to model them, she said. There are at least five such groups in the Purchase area.

The U.S. Census reports that more than 2 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren. That number is about 70,000 in Kentucky, said Sandy Goodlett, with the state Office for Family Resource and Youth Services Center.

“I don’t know the statistics for the Purchase area, but the schools are reporting that it is a growing phenomenon and our family and consumer science agents that are working with homemaker clientele are finding that many of them are helping to raise a grandchild,” said Snook, who is a member of the conference planning committee.

Snook said she became interested in this issue through her work with Family Resource Centers and the schools through 4-H, and in putting together some information for the support groups.

“My role is youth development and I’m trying to help them understand the youth development aspect, the ages and stages their grandchildren are going through. And yes, it is different than when they raised their children, ” she said.

When Gayle McClure’s daughter died last year in a freak accident, McClure stepped in to take on the role of raising her four grandchildren. She said she wouldn’t have it any other way but it has been a challenge.

The Murray grandmother was contacted about the grandparents support group and after initially being hesitant, she said the group has been the best thing that has happened.

“You find out that you are not alone,” McClure said. “There are a lot of people out there that are in the same predicament and we can help each other. We laugh. We talk. We cry. And we can find out other information and other sources that we need to know to help us financially and mentally to raise these children.”

McClure said the conference is a wonderful idea because grandparents need to know what is available for them.


Nancy Snook, (270) 554-9520