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Free Conference Designed to Help Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Saturday's event will provide information about securing legal rights and dealing with family relationships

Juvenile Court Judge Arthur Garcia and social worker and family therapist Dr. Sandra Thomas will be the featured speakers at a free conference for grandparents raising grandchildren from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. this Saturday, April 2, at Cornerstone Church, 1026 E. Sierra Madre Ave. in Santa Maria.

Grandparents will learn about securing legal rights in Juvenile Court and how to effectively deal with family dynamics in multigenerational families.

“We are sponsoring this conference, in partnership with Allan Hancock College, because grandparents raising children face unique challenges,” said Fran Forman, executive director of the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County. “It is important to support these unsung heroes. They provide a loving environment for children who might otherwise end up in foster care. Children raised by their grandparents are able to stay with their own families. This makes a world of difference to a child.”

The number of grandparent-led families in California has risen steadily. About 452,000 California children were in the care of their grandparents in 2009 compared with 376,000 in 2004.

Grandparents raising grandchildren are a racially, ethnically and economically diverse group. After Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 his mother, Katherine Jackson, joined the ranks of grandparents raising grandchildren when she took on the responsibility of caring for the pop star’s three children.

Although it’s safe to assume that money is not an issue for the Jackson family, money is tight for many grandparent-led families. Some must use their Social Security checks and other forms of government assistance to feed and clothe the children.

“Approximately 50 Head Start children in Santa Barbara County live with their grandparents,” according to Mattie Gadsby, Children’s Services director at Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County. She estimates that “three out of every four of these children are living below the poverty line.”

Allan Hancock College and the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County invite all grandparents raising grandchildren to attend this free presentation. Lunch will be provided, and child care is available at Sierra Madre Head Start. Call 805.922.2243 to RSVP.

— Holly Carmody is a management Specialist for the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County.


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