The Healthy Grandparents Program was established at Augusta University's College of Nursing in January of 1999 to provide physical, emotional, and social support to grandparents and great-grandparents raising their grandchildren ages 0-17 living in parent-absent homes. The program serves both Richmond and Columbia Counties. The primary goal is to strengthen these extended families so children can experience a stable and supportive environment without having to enter the formal foster care system. The program's services are designed to increase family empowerment and independence, increase family stability, enhance parenting skills, and support family ties and culture. The program works to improve the health and well-being of the family as a whole, while building on the strengths of the entire family.
Grandparents assume the care of their grandchildren when parents become incapacitated by drug and/or alcohol abuse; are incarcerated, abusive and/or neglectful, abandon their children, or when parents die, are mobilized for military service, or physically or mentally ill. Families have demonstrated a significant need for social/peer support, mental and physical health care, parenting education, child development education, legal assistance, access to information and resources, respite care, and advocacy. Many grandparent caregivers are accessing social services for the first time, are unaware of available services, and frustrated by attempts to navigate the system. Services provided through this program have been able to meet the unique needs of this population by providing a wide range of home and community-based services designed to strengthen grandparent caregiver families, improve family functioning, prevent child abuse and neglect, and provide stability and permanency in children's lives.
Since 1999, the Healthy Grandparent Program has worked with over 450 grandparents and well over 700 grandchildren.
Grandparent caregivers, who generally have limited incomes and resources, are left to pick up the pieces, filling a tremendous void for these children. They do a remarkable job of addressing their needs and providing stability and permanency the children have never had before.
The Healthy Grandparents Program provides case management services that enable families to identify their needs and access a variety of community resources. Monthly in-home health screenings/counseling by a registered nurse, monthly home visits by a social worker, monthly support/educational group meetings, public benefits counseling, and free custody/adoption assistance is provided. Children with school behavior and/or achievement problems receive monthly school visits by the social worker to identify appropriate interventions. Home and neighborhood safety education includes installing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Funds to help pay for the enrollment of children into camp for the summer months is also provided through a grant provided by the CSRA Area Agency on Aging.
According to the 2010 census, nearly 1 million children are living in homes across the U.S. headed by their grandparents and neither parent living in the home. In Georgia alone, there are over 128,000 grandparents responsible for their grandchildren's care and over 40,000 of those are caring for their grandchildren without either parent in the home. In Richmond & Columbia counties, there are almost 4,000 grandparents responsible for their grandchildren's care. Almost 2,000 of these grandparents are raising their grandchildren without either parent present.
The Healthy Grandparents Program is funded through an annual competitive grant through Georgia's Department of Human Resources Promoting Safe and Stable Families program with matching funds from the College of Nursing at Augusta University. The CSRA Area Agency on Aging also provides funding to help enroll children into camp during the summer months.