TLC, UT Extension Office partner to provide program for residents raising their grandchildren

Published 5:25 am Thursday, January 12, 2017

In recent years, a local community service agency has noted an increase in the number of local residents who find themselves raising their grandchildren and now is hoping to provide assistance to those families.
The TLC Community Center provides support programs for those facing a crisis pregnancy or those in need of assistance meeting the needs of their children. Over the years, TLC Community Center Director Angie Odom said she has helped clients who have come to the Center seeking help in providing for the needs of a grandchild, or grandchildren, they are raising. In one case, Odom said one of the children served by the Center was being raised by a great-grandmother.
When Odom first founded the Center these cases were not as common but now she said she frequently works with clients raising grandchildren.
As part of the Center’s regular program for families, the parent or parents are required to attend a parenting class each month to learn to better recognize and provide for the needs of their child. Odom said the clients coming in raising grandchildren don’t need that type of assistance.
“We don’t want to send them to a regular parenting class, because they have already done that,” Odom said. “We wanted to give them something that meets their needs.”
To help create a special program, Odom has partnered with Vickie Clark, the Director of the Carter County UT Extension Office, to help meet the needs of these members of the community.
“We want to promote understanding of the issues and concerns of grandparents raising grandchildren,” Clark said. “We’re really going to try to pull in community groups and organizations that can help with the needs of raising children.”
And those special needs are something that Clark herself understands, as she and her husband are raising a 3-year-old grandson.
While the basics of parenting haven’t changed, Clark said there have been some things that have changed over the years that grandparents may not be aware of or need a refresher on. As an example, Clark cited the recommended position for an infant to sleep in. When many of today’s grandparents were raising their own children, doctors recommended they place the infant on its stomach to sleep, Clark said. Now the recommended position is to place the baby on its back. Another significant change is in child restraint laws, Clark said, adding those can change frequently in just a few years.
Raising a grandchild can also present different challenges than raising a child of your own, Clark said. There are different financial and legal issues to consider as well as issues with whether or not the child’s birth parents are still involved in the child’s life.
The primary goal for the group, Clark said, will be to allow these individuals to meet each other and form a sort of support group to allow them to know they are not alone in facing these challenges.
“Our goal is to develop a sense of community,” Clark said. “We’re going to learn from each other. We’ll let the group lead us and guide us with where they would like to grow.”
“And we’re going to try to remember to keep a sense of humor throughout it all, because we think that will help,” Clark said.
The program will feature three modules of curriculum developed by the University of Tennessee, but Clark said the sessions will be tailored to meet the needs of the group. Clark said she will bring in guest speakers from area service agencies that can provide assistance programs that some in the group may have been unaware of or didn’t know they qualified for.
The Grandparents Class will meet on the last Tuesday of each month — beginning on Jan. 31 — at 11:30 a.m. at the TLC Community Center, which is located at 145 Judge Don Lewis Blvd. The Center is across the street from the National Guard Armory in Stoney Creek next to the Workforce Development Complex. The program is free and open to anyone in the community raising a grandchild, niece, nephew, or other relative. Residents do not have to be a client of the TLC Community Center to participate in this program.
For more information, contact Angie Odom with the TLC Community at 423-895-8601 or contact Vickie Clark at the UT Extension Office at 542-1818.

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