Seeing grandparents walking hand in hand with their grandchildren is a heartwarming sight. But our usual assumptions about the relationship may be inaccurate. While we tend to believe that the grandparents are probably spending a few hours babysitting the kids, more and more are the primary caregivers, with their grandchildren as their full-time responsibility.
A July 2018 research update from the Butler Center for Research cites the most recent figures available from the U.S. Census, which indicate that in 2016, 2.5 million grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under 18 years old living with them. Nearly 6 million children under 18, with 2.6 million of those under age 6, were living in their grandparents’ household.
Why the increase? Although this isn’t a new phenomenon—one prominent example is President Barack Obama, who was raised largely by his grandparents—part of the reason the figures have risen is believed to be a result of the opioid epidemic. According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths in the United States have more than tripled from 1999 to 2015, and often leave children parentless.
Other factors include incarceration, death of a parent or parents, or child abuse.
There are many concerns for these grandparent caregivers, including economic problems, as well as emotional factors, says Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, Director of the Guidance Center’s Leeds Place. “These grandparents are often isolated, struggling with health and financial issues that add additional stress to the total family,” she says.
[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]
To serve local grandparents who are in this situation, the Guidance Center created a program called C-GRASP, which stands for Caregiver Grandparent Respite and Support Program. Through C-GRASP, we provide support and education for grandparents who are the primary caregivers of their young grandchildren.
“Through partnerships with a team of supportive local entities, we provide the grandparents with a variety of services, including respite and peer support activities, counseling, clothing, food, housing assistance, transportation and school advocacy,” says Dr. Taylor-Walthrust. “Those grandparents who take part in C-GRASP feel supported by the services they receive that are designed to meet their individual needs. They also have the opportunity to develop a social network with other grandparents who are experiencing the same life challenge.”
To learn more about C-GRASP, contact the Guidance Center at (516) 626-1971.
North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center hosted the annual pupil personnel webinar for teachers, administrators, social workers and school phycologists. The program addressed the social, emotional, developmental and academic health of children in our community.
After nearly four decades of dedicated service, our Director of Clinical Services, Bruce Kaufstein, is retiring at the end of this year, leaving behind many grateful kids, families and co-workers who have benefited from his abundant wisdom and compassion.
Kaufstein, LCSW, who interned at the Guidance Center in 1976 before joining the staff in December 1984, spent the bulk of his career working with adolescents, helping them grow and heal not only through traditional talk therapy but also with a life-changing initiative that he developed some 25 years ago: the Wilderness Respite Program, which takes at-risk adolescents on hikes and other nature activities that foster individual growth, leadership skills, self-esteem and friendships while also promoting environmental stewardship.
“Out in the natural world, in places like Bear Mountain, the teens become completely immersed and realize they have no choice but to respond to the challenges that arise, both physical and emotional,” says Kaufstein. “Sometimes they can meet those challenges independently or with a little help from the leaders, and sometimes their struggles trigger a group response to support and enable them to push on and complete the challenge of the day.”
Kaufstein, who leads the outings and is an avid hiker, explains that many of the teens have issues like autism, ADHD and anxiety, and therefore have trouble sitting still. “Out on the trails, they learn to take one step at a time to successfully complete the day’s goal,” he says. “They learn how to be independent and also how to work together. It’s so affirming for kids who rarely get much praise in school.”
He adds, “Most hikes are not characterized by struggles, but are full days of conversing, laughing, photographing nature and making friends. Since the pandemic, the value and need for interaction with peers has never been more palpable.”
Kaufstein was also the driving force behind our onsite organic gardens, where children and teens learn lessons in cooperation, responsibility and patience.“The kids take the lead in planting, watering and harvesting, and then take the produce to be donated to soup kitchens,” he explains. “It gives them an enormous sense of accomplishment and pride.”
Dr. Reena Nandi, Director of Psychiatric Services, says, “Bruce can bring calm to any situation, and he has truly transformed the lives of hundreds of children and families. He’s also been a mentor to many staff members over the years, making them feel supported and cared for. He will be sorely missed.”
Working with Guidance Center clients and their families has been a privilege, says Kaufstein, who plans to spend his retirement years hiking, playing piano and writing anecdotal stories about his experiences with adolescents. “It has been a sacred and solemn experience to positively impact the lives of so many people,” he says. “The entire staff, from the front desk people who greet clients to the senior supervisors, are so supportive of each other and of the mission. It has been incredibly gratifying to spend my career at the Guidance Center.”
Photo: Jana North, President of the UUCSR and Terry Bain, Member of UUCSR’s Board of Trustees.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, the generous and caring members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (UUCSR) wanted to provide immediate financial assistance to local organizations that were impacted by the crisis.
They asked congregation members to suggest their favorite nonprofits and then set up a committee to vet the nominees. Fortunately, many UUCSR members were familiar with the lifesaving work of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.
After reaching out to us and hearing about our COVID-19 response efforts, UUCSR donated $10,000 to the Guidance Center and then an additional $50,000 in support of our work at a time when our services are needed more than ever. Over the course of their granting periods, UUCSR awarded $670,000 to a variety of local nonprofits to help them respond to the pandemic.
According to Terry Bain, a member of UUCSR’s Board of Trustees, the grant guidelines focused on food insecurity, homelessness, loss of parents or guardians, mental health and educational disadvantages.
“We wanted to address the areas where we thought the need would be the greatest, and in the beginning, everyone thought about food banks,” says Bain. “But by the time we got to the second round of funding, so many nonprofits were telling us about mental health issues that came out in their clients. PTSD was surfacing because the long, grinding time of the pandemic has caused such stress on everybody.”
Jana North, president of the UUCSR, says, “Of all the names that were proposed, your name rose to the top immediately. The Guidance Center is well known for doing this important work to provide services to families struggling with depression, anxiety and other issues related to COVID.”
Faith in Action
In describing UUCSR’s philanthropy efforts, North says, “We believe that with great wealth comes great responsibility. Part of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist is to put our faith into action, and with each grant we give, we see our faith going out into the community.”
North adds that UUs “believe strongly that we are only a small part of the world around us, and our principles respect and honor the worth and dignity of each individual. We are here on this Earth only for a short time, and in that time we want to take care of each other and the planet.”
A Multifaceted Congregation
UUCSR (uucsr.org), which has about 500 members, has been holding its Sunday services virtually since the beginning of the pandemic, though some recent services have provided an onsite, outdoor option.
The congregation is a very active one, with a variety of programs, committees and events, some open to the public. For example, on the second Friday night of each month, UUCSR presents “Soulful Sundown,” a musical collaboration between Rev. Jennifer L. Brower and the Cosmic Orchestra, often with special guest musicians.
Of its many opportunities for involvement, UUCSR features a Women’s Group, Social Justice Group, Green Sanctuary Committee and LGBTQ+ Group, among others. Activities range from yoga and quilting to book discussions and bridge.
“Unitarian Universalists believe in offering respect and dignity to everyone and this includes those in a mental health crisis situation,” says Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore, Lead Minister. “The congregation has long sought to support mental health, spiritual health, well-being and healing.”
In fact, the UUCSR Mental Health group holds programs and discussions to broaden general awareness and increase the understanding of mental health issues and sponsors a mental health support group which met at the congregation pre-pandemic. Additionally, the congregation has provided funding for training the police in mental health crisis intervention.
Kathy Rivera, the Guidance Center’s Executive Director, says, “We are so grateful to the members of UUCSR for choosing us as a grantee. Their awareness of the importance of the mental health of our children and families during the pandemic is clear evidence of their dedication to the community, and we are proud to call them one of our valued donors and partners.”
Bain of UUCSR’s board says, “It’s very challenging for parents to know where to turn for help. The fact that the Guidance Center is out there helping people is just remarkable and so needed.”
To learn more about supporting North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, contact Director of Development Lauren McGowan at (516) 626-1971, ext. 320.