WMU News

Grandparents raising grandchildren is conference topic

Oct. 21, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- The impact of social trends that have resulted in more than 4 million children being raised by their grandparents will be the topic of a Thursday, Oct. 30, conference in Grand Rapids as social service professionals learn the skills they need to deal with the phenomenon.

"Second Time Around -- Grandparents Raising Grandchildren" is the title of the Family Independence Agency training conference that will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Western Michigan University's Grand Rapids Regional Center, 2333 East Beltline S.E. The conference is being organized by WMU researchers for 80 West Michigan professionals who work for the FIA and other social service organizations. Presenters will include legal and legislative experts, grandparent advocacy workers and educators from several Michigan counties.

The keynote address will be delivered by Richard Victor of Birmingham, Mich., founder and executive director of the Grandparents Rights Organization. Legal issues for grandparents will be discussed by Grand Rapids area attorneys Charles R. Dannison of Cascade Family Law P.C. and Frank E. Vandervort, director of the Children's Law Center of Grand Rapids.

Leading a session titled "Strengths and Challenges" will be Dr. Linda S. Dannison, chairperson of WMU's Department of Family and Consumer Sciences; Ann Nieuwenhuis, director of Michigan State University's Kalamazoo County Extension; and Dr. Andrea Smith, WMU assistant professor of education and professional development. The three were part of a 10-month effort last year that resulted in development of a curriculum for use by grandparent support groups across the country.

Other presenters will include: Andrew L. Zylstra, director of the Kent County FIA; Eileen McNulty, district director for state Sen. Dick Posthumus; Doug Hart, legislative assistant for Michigan Rep. Jack A. Horton; Kathryn Gervasi of the Grace Institute; Marsha Hisle of the St. Joseph Area Agency on Aging; Melodye James of MSU's Kalamazoo County Extension; and Wilhelmena Wright of Life Guidance Services in Grand Rapids.

Additional topics that will be covered in the conference include forming support groups, helping grandparents refine parenting skills, working with schools and communities, developing financial management skills and promoting personal well-being.

For more information about the conference, persons should call Dr. Linda Dannison at 616 387-3713 or Dr. Andrea Smith at 616 771-9470. To arrange or confirm media coverage, call Cheryl Roland, WMU Marketing, Public Relations and Communications, at 616 387-8412.

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