"the interest was overwhelming," says Mary Brintnall-Peterson, co-chairman of the first National Satellite Video Conference, "Grandparents Raising Grandchildren," held on January 12. "We had 286 sites across the country," she says, "and we had to turn away requests for more sites."
Several thousand teachers, social workers, family counselors, aging experts and health care specialists participated in the 3-1/2 hour conference. The program featured panel discussions, workshops, and video presentations of innovative programs such as the "GrandFamilies House" in Boston (see story above).
"Our hope for the conference was to plant seeds in the minds of professionals in communities," says Ms. Brintnall-Peterson, a family specialist at University of Wisconsin Extension, Madison. "We wanted to help them band together so grandparent issues won't continue to fall through the cracks."
As more and more grandparents have to raise grandchildren, schools are finding they must learn to deal with an older generation of guardians, whose values are often stricter. Social workers faced with a growing subset of low-income caregivers, often find there is no money earmarked for this group.
And the various groups of grandparents - those with legal custody of grandchildren, or grandchildren staying over night, or those as daily care providers - all face ground breaking legal and financial issues.
"A lot of states have laws that are barriers to grandparents," says Brintnall-Peterson. "My hope is that the conference will help change the laws, and states will be come more responsive."