CASA GRANDE (August, 2016) – The first Sunday after Labor Day is recognized as Grandparents’ Day in the United States. This year, the day falls on Sept. 11. As the nation celebrates Grandparents’ Day, First Things First applauds those grandparents who are parenting a second time around.
Earlier this year, the Arizona Legislature proclaimed September as Grandfamily/Kinship Care Month, a time to recognize grandparents and other family members raising children who cannot be cared for by their own parents. State Senator Debbie Lesko sponsored the bill.
In Arizona, 14 percent of Arizona children ages 0 to 5 live with grandparents, compared to 12 percent nationally. Of those 14 percent, 30 percent of these households have no parent of the child present, meaning grandparents are responsible for most of the basic needs of children living with them.
For many grandparents, it can be challenging when it has been decades since they cared for young children. So much has been learned about brain development and the impact of early experiences. Now we know that about 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5. More and more evidence shows quality early interactions are crucial for a young child’s success in school and later in life.
FTF provides funding for various programs that are having positive impacts on grandparents and Arizona’s children. In Pinal County, FTF Pinal Region funds the United Way of Pinal County Friend, Family & Neighbor (FFN) Caregivers Outreach Assistance Project, which offers support to grandparents raising and/or caring for their grandchildren. Grandparents can attend free monthly trainings and networking events on topics such as early literacy, the importance of play to a child’s learning and how to deal with challenging behaviors. For more information about the FFN program, call 520-836-0736, ext. 13.
Shirley Petty, a grandmother, participated in the San Tan Valley program for many years. Her granddaughter recently started kindergarten.
“My granddaughter is as smart as a whip and she would not be where she is emotionally, academically or physically if it were not for the FFN monthly meetings,” Petty said. “I learned a wealth of up-to-date knowledge and information. After all, my children are grown and it was many years since I cared for a little one.”
FTF also provides two statewide resources that can provide advice and support to grandparents raising their grandkids. The Birth to 5 Helpline (1-877-705-KIDS) is a free program and open to all Arizona families, with young children ages birth to 5, looking for the latest child development information from experts in the field.
Then there’s the Arizona Parent Kit, which is given to families of newborns when they leave the hospital or available for check-out at many libraries, each kit includes: DVDs on everything from challenging behaviors to choosing child care, a book to encourage daily reading with infants and a list of community resources.
Supporting grandparents in their efforts to raise the next generation will help create a strong foundation of learning, growth and success for all children.
About First Things First
First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit FirstThingsFirst.org.