When Grandparents Parent Again

February 20, 2009
By

KINnections one of many programs that help kids, families at busy MSPCC

BROOKSIDE—It is 5:30 on a Tuesday evening, and the big brick building at the corner of Green and Amory streets—the site of Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) programs—is filled with light and sound. Families are coming for appointments and counseling. More than 30 kids at the Kid’s Day after-school program are winding down for the day. Clinicians are coming back from appointments in the community.

Earlier, on Tuesday morning, a group of men and women gathered to talk about what it’s like to be a senior caring for children at home.

The KINnections program—funded by grants from the City of Boston, Dedham Temporary Home for Women and from MSPCC fund-raising—is a busy one. The program is open to anyone over 55 who is the guardian or custodian of children—usually grandparents taking care of their grandchil-dren who live with them. KINnections offers these special families support groups, training, financial assistance with things like camp for children and activities like outings to local museums for the grandparents.

The support groups, held at Julia Martin House in Jackson Square as well as at MSPCC, are led by two local women—both grandparents raising grandchildren themselves. Harriet Jackson Lyons is the founder of Raising Our Children’s Children (ROCC), one of the first groups for these families. The other grandmother is Julia Martin, for whom the building in which she lives and holds meetings was named in honor of more than 40 years of service to the Jamaica Plain community.

“What we are doing is reinventing the neighborhood,” said Jackson. “Through these groups, grandparents raising grandchildren have a place where they can share and find support with people who are in the same situation. Those connections would have happened naturally many years ago, but now they need some help.”

Jackson, Martin and the program staff, Charity Bell-Lewitt and Anna Tilbe, have a unique understanding of challenges faced by the families in their program.

“Some of these families get a phone call one afternoon and, wham, they are suddenly parents again,” explained Bell-Lewitt, a Jamaica Plain resident. “And they have to deal with the needs of these children as well as their own reactions to suddenly having the financial and emo-tional pressure of parenting in their senior years. We are able to help them with all of those things, in addition to providing them with a whole group of people going through the same experience.”

Other families are served by the MSPCC Family Counseling Center. There, youth and families receive support around mental health or behav-ioral issues, issues of trauma and loss, and concerns relating to foster care and adoption. Clinicians with a variety of expertise work one-on-one and in family groups, providing families with assistance in understanding and working through the challenges they face.

“We give children and families the tools they need to change for the better and support them while they make those changes,” said Carol Wayne, clinical supervisor.

MSPCC provides families from Boston and beyond with services ranging from parenting support and education to clinical mental health services designed to respond to the unique needs of children, adolescents and their families. Founded in 1878 as a rescue organization for abused children, MSPCC is committed to strengthening families with a network of locations statewide, each of which offers a variety of programming.

“At MSPCC, we take a holistic approach to working with children and families. We understand that every child and parent has their own strengths and needs and that to help children and families recognize their potential to be the best they can be, we must work with them in the context of their families and communities,” said site director Michael Ames.

Most clients receive services at the MSPCC site, but many services are provided to families in their homes, including parenting education and family stabilization services. Providing services in the setting that makes the most sense for the client is another way in which MSPCC demonstrates its commitment to helping families succeed.

In fact, many of the hundreds of families who receive MSPCC services at the Jamaica Plain site or in their homes find a lot to help them meet that potential. Each family who seeks help is offered a wide range of support services. A family can receive individual and family ther-apy, medication consultation, after-school programming and attend support groups, all in the same place.

Some of the families use only one service, such as counseling or family stabilization services for assistance in dealing with a crisis. Others become part of ongoing programs, like those offered in the Kid’s Day after-school program and the KINnections program.

The counseling center and other programs for foster families, for teen moms and for families with children who have behavioral and/or mental health issues are open to all families. MSPCC accepts insurance, including MassHeath, and has staff fluent in other languages, including Spanish and Haitian Creole. To find out more, call 983-5800 or visit www. MSPCC.org.

Submitted by MSPCC Jamaica Plain.