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Programs, resources exist to help grandfamilies

Delegate Terri Funk Sypolt said she has a saying she lives by.

“What we have done for our seniors, veterans, families and first responders in the past is not as important as what we do for them in the future,” she said.  “Because they have done everything for us.”

Sypolt said the senior population is like other populations — some need more help while others are on the upper scale with good retirement benefits.

“At the same time we are helping seniors we also need to help the younger generations who are struggling to raise a family,” she said, “They are struggling financially because they can’t find good-paying jobs, and are facing the cost of raising a family.”

Sypolt said this can cause people to turn to drugs and alcohol, which can break up the family.  She said this can also lead to grandparents raising their grandchildren.

“Some, but not all grandparents can afford to raise their grandchildren,” Sypolt said. “Even though they (seniors) don’t see it as a burden, it becomes a continuing circle.”

She said the Senior Family and Children’s Committee came up with a program to address the problem.

“I give credit to Bonnie Dunn and the Grandfamilies program,” she said. “I am thrilled, I am honored, I am overwhelmed that some of the funding for that program came through our committee.”

Sypolt said Dunn was able to relate to the committee members — and the committee wants to have a continual line item for the Grandfamilies program in its budget.

“The Grandfamilies program is a need in Preston County,” she said.

Dunn, West Virginia State University Extension specialist for Grandfamilies, said this is the program’s sixth year.

The program provides intervention, advocacy, support and information for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

For example, she said, this year there is an increase in support checks from the Department of Health and Human Resources for grandfamilies.

Dunn said the checks start at $400 for the first child and are prorated for additional children.

She said this is just one of the many resources available for grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

Dunn said the last census showed 660 grandfamilies in Preston County, 1,700 in Mon County and 45,000 state wide.

“These numbers are super low,” she said. “Now we’re getting numbers in from the schools and their numbers are higher. We don’t have all of the data yet.”

Dunn said there is help available but grandparents have to make the call.

For more information about the Grandfamilies Program in Marion/Taylor counties, call Carolyn Jones at 304-366-4750; in Mon County, call Brandi Davis at 304-284-0092; and in Preston County, call Susie Huggins at 304-288-5244.