Keynote Speaker Amy Goyer, AARP grandparenting expert, gives a presentation during Friday’s 5th Annual Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Conference in Wilkes-Barre.PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER
WILKES-BARRE – In Northeastern Pennsylvania and around the globe, the number of children being raised primarily by their grandparents is on the rise.
To help grandparents cope with the stress of taking on a parent’s role the second time around, and provide them with tools to be the best caregivers they can be, the NEPA Intergenerational Coalition hosted its fifth annual Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Conference Friday at Genetti’s Hotel and Conference Center.
Linda McDermott of Dallas was one of about 100 conference attendees. She has raised her grandson, who has cerebral palsy, for the past 13 years, and said she retired two weeks ago due to health problems.
She said the stress of raising a grandchild, particularly one with special needs, has contributed to her problems.
“I’m really hoping to make some connections in terms of what services might be available for a grandparent raising a disabled child,” she said.
Chris Stegura, of West Pittston, said she became the primary caregiver for her grandchild much more recently, only a few months ago, and said she came to the conference primarily for support.
“You get all those emotions you don’t know how to deal with,” she said. “I think it’s a good source of information from people who have been through it before.”
Keynote Speaker Amy Goyer, a family expert with the American Association of Retired Persons, said about 4.9 million children in the United States live with their grandparents, and about 1.9 million more live with relatives other than parents.
Conference Chairman Howard J. Grossman added that 188,000 children in Pennsylvania are being raised by grandparents.
“I think the most important thing (this conference) has done is it has highlighted this demographic of grandparents raising grandchildren,” Grossman said. “Sometimes it’s a hidden demographic.”
Goyer said grandparents often have problems navigating the resources available to them and building a support network of peers. Friday’s conference, titled “Knowing Where to Turn,” focused on those issues.
Eight breakout sessions addressed issues like stress management, navigating available services and caring for children with special needs, and many of the NEPA Intergenerational Coalition’s 20 member organizations provided information about the services they offer for grandparents and children.
The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Conference has been hosted for the past 5 years by the NEPA Intergenerational Alliance. It was established with the aid of former state Sen. Raphael Musto, who attended the event Friday and received a thank-you gift from Grossman.