New grandparent support group starts Thursday

Published 8:11 am Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The family dynamic is changing in Elizabethton and the state of Tennessee. With an increasing number of children being raised by the grandparents rather than immediate parents, a support group is forming to address the grandparents who need assistance becoming parents again.

Vickie Clark, an extension agent at the UT Extension office in Elizabethton, said she decided to open the support group as a way to provide support and resources to grandparents who need them.

“I have been led to believe this is an emerging need,” Clark said.

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She said she is forming the support group, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, in response to the rising number of families in Tennessee in which the grandparent or another relative is raising the child in the household instead of an immediate parent.

Clark said these grandparents have physical, emotional and financial stresses unique to them, and she said she wants to provide option and support for these families.

“They are not in this alone,” Clark said.

The 2010 U.S. Census said over 150,000 children under 18 years old “live in homes where the householders are grandparents or other relatives,” making up roughly 12 percent of all children in the state of Tennessee.

Clark said the number of families like this in Carter County has increased by roughly 200 in the last year.

Clark said she has been working with families like this for the past several years, including collecting phone numbers and addresses to form a mailing list to form groups.

Responses to these and current efforts have been mixed, Clark said.

“There has been a hesitancy to be involved,” she said. “A lot of these families have so much on their plate already, maybe they are overwhelmed.”

Despite this, Clark said their efforts have received encouragement and support from the community overall.

“They are eager to share their stories and help,” Clark said.

In addition to the support group, Clark said she also hopes to get involved with schools. She said the counselors there have seen the need for support for these families.

The support group plans to meet on the fourth Thursday of every month at the TLC Community Center, starting at noon.

“Having options on how to connect with these groups might help convince others to get involved,” Clark said.

Clark said grandparents who are raising grandchildren have “special challenges and blessings,” and she said she wants to make sure those who need these resources can reach them.

“Thursday is a chance to make a difference,” she said. “We want to make resources easier to access and make families more aware of these resources.”