KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A national journal that focuses on the needs of millions of families headed by grandparents has just been launched at Western Michigan University as a free open-access online resource for scholars and public service professionals.
The first issue of GrandFamilies: The Contemporary Journal of Research, Practice and Policy was published Aug. 20 and can be found online at scholarworks.wmich.edu/grandfamilies. The journal is a product of the National Research Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a nearly three-year-old collaboration between Georgia State and Western Michigan universities.
About the journal
GrandFamilies is designed to provide a forum for research with sound scholarship, knowledge, skills and best practices from the field for scholars, clinicians, policymakers, educators, program administrators and family advocates. The inaugural issue, for instance, includes stories on grandfamily support groups, youth mentoring, grandparent resilience and the first of what is expected to be an annual brief on state and federal legislation that will support grandfamilies.
The journal co-editors are Dr. Andrea Smith, a WMU professor of teaching, learning and educational studies, and Georgia State's Dr. Deborah Whitley, associate professor of social work. They also are co-directors of the grandparenting research center. The need for such a journal, they say, was one of the primary findings of a national survey done by the center shortly after it was established.
"We conducted a national survey of professionals in the kinship-care arena," Whitley says. "The overwhelming response was that there is a real need for online support resources and for a published journal to focus on research and best practices."
The editors are committed to filling that void with the new journal by:
- Featuring standards of excellence for research and practice related to grandparent-headed families.
- Fostering new and innovative practice methods for serving custodial grandparents and their grandchildren.
- Promoting policy content that advances national and international perspectives of issues affecting grandparent-headed families.
The editors also made a commitment to providing that information twice yearly without charge.
"We really feel it is important to make sure this material is available to people who work with grandparents in agencies that don't have budgets for journal subscriptions," Smith says. "It is critical that we keep this resource cost free."
Smith and Whitley call the immediate response to news of the journal "off the charts." They report already having diverse submissions to populate the next two issues of the journal.
"We're getting emails from people from all over the world who already know about it," Smith says. "There is nothing like this available anywhere else, and our colleagues in places like Scandinavia all want to submit something for future issues."
The peer-reviewed journal has an infrastructure that, in addition to Smith and Whitley, includes two managing editors—John McElroy and Deborah Langosch—and a six-person editorial board working from locations around the United States. The journal also has a network of 35 content editors who serve as peer reviewers.
Approximately 2.7 million grandparents across the nation are responsible for the total care of their grandchildren, and more than half of all children living in grandparent-headed homes are under the age of 6 years. Grandparent-headed families exist for numerous reasons, including parental substance abuse, mental or physical illness, unemployment, military deployment, child abuse, neglect or abandonment, adolescent pregnancy, divorce and parental death.
Originally established by GSU in 2001, the National Research Center for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren promotes best practices in the kinship care field by linking researchers and field-based professionals. WMU has been working with Georgia State since the inception of a center there, and in late 2011, the two institutions joined forces and resources to focus on this underserved group.