Subcommittee on Local Support for Grandparents Across the State

Subcommittee on Local Support for Grandparents Across the State

Local Support Subcommittee Overview July 2011


To maintain and establish support groups across the state of Massachusetts so they can provide support and information to all grandparents raising kin.

The subcommittee on local support to grandparents will work on parallel tracks:

  • Establish support groups from within DCF to support those involved with the Department.
  • Establish support groups in the community for grandparents not involved with DCF.
  • Provide information and support to the existing groups.

The membership in these groups is not exclusive; it is open to any and all grandparents/kin raising kin children.


  • Identify existing groups across the state.
  • Check the contact information of all groups, for accuracy.
  • Identify areas where the need exists.
  • Identify resources available to start new groups where needed.
  • Provide information pertinent to grandparents to local groups in a consistent manner.
  • Assist groups in action steps regarding legislation that affects them, or other actions that will benefit grandparents raising kin.

Subcommittee members:

  • Manuela DaCosta, Commissioner
  • Margo Chevers, Commissioner
  • Sheila Donohue-King, Elder Affairs
  • Joan Stiles, Community Connections – DCF
  • Colleen Pritoni – Ongoing Social Worker - DCF
  • Richard Learned – Grandfather
  • Monica Dean – Director of Community Organizing & Resident Services – Nuestra Comunidad.


  • Identify existing groups across the state and check the contact information of all groups, for accuracy

Joan, Sheila and Colleen called the list of existing groups across the state to confirm their viability/status. These are the results:

Existing groups:












South Boston

Jamaica Plain


New Bedford












Most of these groups meet once per month with the exception of one group in Dorchester facilitated by Harriet Jackson Lions and one group in Weymouth facilitated by Colleen Pritoni that meet every week.

No response to query:

 Danvers

 Lancaster

No longer in existence:

 Beverly

 Barnstable

 Jamaica Plain

 Gloucester

 Leominster

 Melrose

 Medford

  • Identify areas where the need exists:

Looking at the map that identifies the existence of support groups these are the areas that most need a support group, or to support the existence of a successful support group.

  1. Barnstable – no group
  2. Weymouth – successful group
  3. Framingham – no group
  4. Lawrence – no group
  5. Greenfield - no group
  6. New Bedford – no viable group
  7. Pittsfield – no group

The subcommittee would like to start the work for the implementation of support groups in these areas/with the support of DCF Area Offices and with Weymouth as the model to follow. The most important characteristic of the Weymouth is the fact that they meet every week and they have a skilled facilitator with clinical background. These factors are of the utmost importance for the type of complexities that grandparents raising grandchildren face.

These are the areas for this fiscal year, in collaboration with Community Connections and DCF and based on the model from the Weymouth group:

 Lawrence – no group

 Framingham – no group

 Barnstable – no group

 New Bedford – no viable group

 Athol – existing group

 Weymouth – Model group

 Lynn – existing group

The subcommittee is in the process to secure funds to support these groups. Following Weymouth’s model, $5,000.00 per group will provide the following:

 Baby sitting

 Food

 2 yearly events

 Guest speakers

 Field trips

 Leadership Development

The facilitation is not paid for, it will be provided by a social worker (like Colleen – or we so desperately hope).

Margo developed a draft template (included in this report) on how to start, develop and sustain a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren. Grandparents across the state said that a group that meets every week is what they need. Monthly meetings are not sufficient because if they miss one month they go a long stretch without support.

Elements of a Successful group:

  • Meet weekly
  • Trained facilitator
  • Co-facilitation with a grandparent
  • Have babysitter available
  • Have food
  • Provide incentives for participation (ex: gift cards for stop and shop)
  • Do fundraising
  • Write grants
  • Provide outings – social activities
  • Address transportation challenges
  • Provide information pertinent to grandparents to local groups in a consistent manner and assist groups in action steps regarding legislation that affects them, or other actions that will benefit grandparents raising kin.

The Subcommittee for I&R created a website where any information that may be of help to grandparents will be posted. The website is

Starting a Grandparents with Custody Group


 Flyers (example see attached)

Places to leave flyers:

  • Sr. Centers
  • Daycare
  • Schools – ask to have it placed in their newsletter
  • Churches
  • pediatrician offices
  • hospitals
  • mental health agencies
  • DTA office
  • DCF office
  • correspondence with politicians offices,
  • family lawyers

Press Release Sample (Attached)

 Local Cable TV

Media for interviews

If you invite the media to a meeting let them know that everything talked about is confidential.

Meeting format (See attached documents on Productive Meetings and Ground Rules)

There are many ways to format your meetings.

  • Guest speakers (see list of suggestions for subjects)
  • Time for sharing issues
  • Facilitator – if your purpose is to provide a support group, it is suggested you have a facilitator who is acquainted with grandparent issues.
  • Pot luck suppers
  • With or without children at the meetings.

If you are going to have children at the meetings you will need a babysitter. Suggestions of places to contact for babysitters

  • High School guidance councilors
  • Senior Centers

Suggestions for meeting topics

  • Helping children deal with trauma
  • State legislators
  • Family lawyer
  • Dealing with difficult kids
  • Discipline
  • Domestic violence
  • How neglect affects children,
  • Childhood development
  • Visitation supervision
  • Financial
  • Legal
  • DTA
  • DCF


It is beneficial to have events where the families can gather together so the children can see others in similar situations.

  • Beach party,
  • Holiday party
  • Halloween summer party
  • Going to ball games
  • Museums
  • Children’s museum
  • Aquarium
  • Science Museum
  • Swim parties

Communication Strategies:

 Members interested in keeping in touch an email list is the easiest way of letting the members know of upcoming events. Include:

  • Anyone who inquires about the group,
  • All members,
  • Area state politicians
  • The grandparents commission
  • All area media

 Keep a list of people’s names and phone numbers.

Welcome package for new members

  • Welcoming letter with contact information
  • Flyer about your group stating days, times and contact information about your group
  • Resource guide from the Commission
  • Flyer from Commission
  • DTA sheet of information about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (found at
  • Suggested reading for Grandparents & Grandchildren (
  • The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (
  • Handouts from speakers who present to your group

 Information pamphlets (should be pertinent to the area. Example for Weymouth)

  • Safe Home Checklist (Mass Dept of Public Health)
  • Foster Children and WIC (
  • Safe Sleep for my Grandbaby (US Dept of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)
  • MSPCC Project Connect (www,
  • Navigation through the Probate and family Court (
  • Camp Fire USA Summer Camps (
  • Kinship Care (
  • Frequently asked questions about civil commitment of substance abusers and other options (Bureau of Substance Abuse Services MA Dept of Public Health)
  • Bay State Community Services (
  • 7 Ways to protect your teen from alcohol and other drugs (800-952-6637)