A group of 25 grandparents from Passaic County gathered in the assembly room of Danforth Memorial Library on Broadway on Wednesday to engage in discussions that will make them better parents, not for their children, but for their grandchildren.
The Grandparents as Parents Task Force of Passaic County, a project established by William Paterson University in 1999, founded by Daphne Joslin and Maria Young, aims to inform grandparents of various resources that exist in the community to help them raise their grandkids. “It was started by two ladies named: Daphne Joslin, from William Paterson University, and Maria Young, from Rutgers Cooperative Extension,” according to Maria Osinski, program coordinator of the project.
The all-volunteer group met in the assembly room on Wednesday morning to discuss pressing topics that grandparents acting as parents, raising the children of their children, wish to see discussed in the coming year. A number of people raised their hands and mentioned topics they wished to see covered in the upcoming meetings, including one person, who wanted to know more ways she could be involved in the school life of her grandchild.
Few of the grandparents complained of the lack of information emanating from the schools alerting them of upcoming events. Others pointed out that sometimes the school provide information flyers to students who leave them in their desk or do not take them home which leaves parents and guardians ill-informed of report card or back to school nights. Mae Bradley, facilitator of the program, as a result of the many questions relating to schooling, will bring in 2 school officials in the October meeting to keep the group up-to-date with the latest changes taking place in the public school system.
“One of the purposes of the meetings is that there is an educational portion of the meeting, and that involves what resources are available to grandparents,” said Ms Osinski. The program does not have any scheduled meetings for August; however, it will have one in September, where the main theme will be “skills for successful parent-teachers conference — and that to me would be appropriate for September so that when you do meet with a teacher, you do know some of the questions to ask pertaining to your child,” says Ms Osinski.
Vivian Matthews, a retired teacher, who raised two grandchildren, says “most of the time a lot of grandparents are raising their grandchildren” without much resource in hand. The parents of the two children Ms Matthews raised were often absent, talking about the mother she says, “her situation had it that she was always gone.” And talking about the father she says, “The father was not in the picture at all.”
Besides being concerned over schooling, the biggest issue was a lack of father figure in the lives of their grandchildren, as was discovered by a quick survey, completed by Ms Bradley. That was hardly a surprise considering out of the 25 attendants, only one was a male. Harold Foster, a grandparent, who was raising his grandson and stumbled across the program while seeking out resource to do so, was the only male in the gathering of 25, and he hoped more grandfathers would come out to these events, “We’re looking to get more grandfathers involved”.
“I guess it’s hard to get men involved,” says Mr Foster. The program volunteers intend to reach out to other organizations to find mentors for youths in order to hopefully provide at least a semblance of a father figure in the lives of children being brought up by their grandparents.
Over burdened by having to raise children at an age when frailty peaks seniors have little choice but to eat junk food and feed the same to their grandchildren, and this is where agencies like United Way come in. Ucheoma Akobundu, project director for United Way, whose organization gives presentations to seniors about healthy eating for themselves as well as for their grandchildren. “This past year, we have had a program called hunger free seniors, and that involved a delivery of one bag of food to a senior who was deemed vulnerable.”
“How can you take care of someone if you are not healthy yourself?” asks Ms Akobundu. Her organization works in tandem with the project to help seniors make healthy food choices.
By gathering agencies like United Way and grandparents who are raising grandchildren in the same room Ms Osinski hopes to help seniors get the resources they need to raise the children who have no last resort. “It’s a way to enable grandparents to better take care of their grandchildren, and to get resource here for them,” said Ms Osinski.
Ms Bradley, who was raised by her grandmother said, “I couldn’t have made it without my grandmom.”
Correction: Ms Osinski was listed as “program director”; however, she is the program coordinator.