This fourth episode in the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Bonnie Dunn, Co-Director of the West Virginia Healthy Grandfamilies Project, who discusses this free initiative that provides information and resources to grandparents who are raising one or more of their grandchildren.
Ms. Dunn is a West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Specialist for Family and Consumer Sciences. She is the Statewide Specialist for the WVSU Healthy Grandfamilies Program and Co-director of the Center for Health Grandfamilies. Background information for the interview notes that children can be deeply impacted if a parent has a substance-use disorder, which could result in the children being placed in an alternative family structure. In this interview, Ms. Dunn reports that West Virginia ranks second in the nation in the number of families in which children are being raised by grandparents (just over 100,000). The Healthy Grandfamilies Project is a 6-month intervention. For 8 weeks of the program, childcare and meals are provided for group sessions with grandparents. The sessions focus on family dynamics derived from various scenarios described by the grandparents. Topics addressed include healthcare for grandparents, including regular health testing, nutrition for the grandparents and the grandchildren, protection of children from the risks of social media involvement, legal services, and the features of substance abuse disorders. The program also has a social-worker component, which involves social- worker consultation with the grandparents and assistance in dealing with family problems. The social worker develops an action plan for addressing priority needs. An evaluation of the program found that the participating grandparents were enthusiastic about the services received, citing specific positive effects. All 55 counties of West Virginia have received technical assistance based on lessons learned from the pilot program.