Season's Greetings from
The Commission on the Status of 
Raising Grandchildren
Dear Grandparents, Kinship Caregivers, and Friends of the Commission,

As we say goodbye to 2016 and begin to welcome in a new year, we have much to be grateful for as a Commission. In the words of our amazing chairman, John Lepper:
 I am thankful that with the cooperation of the Attorney General's Office, the Commission was able to bring pragmatic messages of help and assistance to grandparents in communities throughout the Commonwealth.  Most of the time I sat in the audience during the exchange tour meeting  next to folks facing critical problems in their efforts to provide safe, nurturing homes for young members of their families. It was important to be there. I believe it gave them hope that someone is listening and trying to help and it gave us motivation to do our best to expand our efforts to do so.

We could not have said it better. To those who have shared your struggles and who are waiting for help, we are listening. We hear you. We are currently working on legislation and policy recommendations that would prioritize working grandparents for child care vouchers and legal representation for grandparents and kinship caregivers, so stay tuned in the months to come for more on this. We are also working on improving legal information for grandparents and on continuing to find ways to support you with information that is accurate and user friendly. Please let us know what you need help with so that we can continue to advocate for you and your families.

Blessings to you and yours from all of us on the Commission!
-Kerry Bickford, Commissioner
-Skip Stuck, Commissioner

The Gift of Peace:  Ways to Survive the Holidays
Tips, Suggestions, and New Traditions for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
by Kerry Bickford

The holidays have arrived, and, truth be told, they are as stressful as they are joyful. The new configuration of 21 st century families (separation, divorce, re-marriage, death of a family member, incarceration, deployment, mental illness, substance abuse, etc) has added a complicated chapter to the traditional celebrations. Traditions are interrupted when family members are no longer able to participate, and communication is often tense between family members trying to plan for "a new normal." Ironically, the very thing that can be the most stressful (communication) is the key to a successful and meaningful celebration that will probably look and feel different from previous ones.
For grandparents raising grandchildren, this can be a difficult time. The double whammy of having to navigate your grandchildrens expectations while worrying about your adult child and how they will or won't fit into the holiday routine is exhausting. Since my own grandchildren are now 13 and 14.5, I am speaking from experience when I share the following tips that have helped us over the years. 

 Follow this link to read through seven tips for surviving the holidays for grandparents, kinship caregivers, and others.   The Gift of Peace


2016 Information Exchange and Listening Tour
by Colleen Pritoni
The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and the Office of the Attorney General recently completed the "2016 Information Exchange and Listening Tour."  The Commission and the AGO visited the eight communities of Pittsfield, Greenfield, Westfield, Worcester, Lowell, Dartmouth, Bourne and Boston and heard from over 450 grandparents and other kinship caregivers as well as providers, social workers, probation officers, and elected officials who also participated in each event.  Each event was unique, educational, emotional, and inspirational.
Some common issues raised throughout the Commonwealth included:  
concerns about the lack of legal representation for kinship caregivers, lack of affordable and accessible child care for working grandparents raising grandchildren, worries about the impact of trauma on children effected by the opioid epidemic, lack of respite available for caregivers, and the discrepancy of services for kinship families involved with DCF and for those not involved with DCF

For those of you who were unable to attend, 
There is still time to have your voice heard! 

The Commission and the AGO will be preparing a report with detailed information and recommendations on how to begin to address the many concerns raised by grandparents and kinship caregivers throughout the state.
Watch for this report in 2017.  

a parent holds the hand of a small child

"If it had not been for my wonderful grandparents"
Skip Stuck's interview with Nicole

**From the editor: I'm writing this story on the day after Thanksgiving,
 and have to let you know that yesterday I thought a lot about Nicole's story, 
realizing that it is a touching reminder of the meaning of the holiday 
and how we all can touch and change a child's life.
My name is Nicole, and I am 30 years old. I'm married and lead a successful professional life and I have a lot to be thankful for. Yet, you might be surprised to learn that my life could have gone in many very different directions had it not been for my wonderful grandparents. I was born when my Mother was 16 years old, and from the start, it was clear that she was overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood. When I was a year old, she left my life, leaving me in the custody of my grandparents. My Nonnie, in her early sixties, and my Papa, in his seventies had already raised 9 children, and were looking forward to a peaceful retirement. Despite some concerns from family, they still took me in. Their retirement plans went out the door and they raised me together until my Nonnie passed away when I was 13. My Papa, alone and then in his late 70's cared for and loved me until I grew up, went to college and on to adult life.
These are the basic facts of my childhood, but they don't tell the real story of how these wonderful people changed my life. They always leveled with me, not sugar coating why I was living with them, but respecting that I could handle real conversation. We talked a lot. I was raised essentially as an only child, who knew she was loved every minute of the day.I remember fondly my grandparents taking me to the Senior Center when I was younger and I learned firsthand about the wisdom that elders possess. When classmates would tease that I was being raised by my grandparents, I would ask them, "Do your grandparents spoil you? Wouldn't you like to be spoiled every day of your life?" I think my family worried that my grandparents were taking too much on by taking me in and I often felt a little guilty. Deep down I always knew that I was center of their world. I will never forget being told by a family member that I am the only reason my grandfather got up every morning after the passing of my grandmother. 
After Nonnie died, Papa and I were inseparable. Although I did all of the things that teenaged girls do, and surely put him to the test on many occasions, I also got to see things that other people my age never saw. I shared a lot of responsibilities around the house, which it seems most teenagers manage to avoid and it taught me to take on more responsibility for myself. This man loved me more than anything, and his passing three years ago left a void and sadness in my life that I still feel today.
I also know that many of the lessons they taught me made me who I am today. I grew up "old school", and found the values that too many young people often don't learn. My respect for elders brought me to volunteer and then work at the Senior Center.  I am still at the Senior Center today, trying to give back to them what they gave to me. I also know that I taught my Papa many things that older people often forget. I hope and believe that I made him feel young and needed at an age when some people feel burnt-out and useless. 
So here's what I want other grandparents and relative caregivers to know. Your sacrifices are worth it, because you have the ability to make the most important difference in a child's life. At some point, they will realize that you made them everything that they are. To children living with relatives, don't be embarrassed. Know that you have a loving family and it is OK to explain what your family is all about.
I am proud of my family and thankful every day for what they gave me.

Coming up in 2017:
  • Please watch for e-mails from the Commission in 2017 about some opportunities to get involved, take action, and help advocate for all grandparents raising grandchildren and other kinship families!

  • The Commission will be sponsoring FIVE Regional Workshops in different communities throughout Massachusetts in Spring 2017.  More Information will be sent out January 2017.

  • The "6th Annual Conference for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Providers" will be held in June 2017 (Date and location TBD). 

On behalf of everyone at The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, we wish you and your families a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!

The Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Colleen Pritoni, Program Coordinator
600 Washington Street  6th Floor
Boston, Ma.  02111