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W.Va. Partnership Supports Grandparents in Raising School-Age Children

A private-public partnership in rural West Virginia is attempting to boost support for grandparents who are parenting for the second time, according to the second part of a two-part Learning Matter TV series on McDowell County.

The segment, which aired Wednesday on PBS Newshour, focused on grandparents in the poorest county of West Virginia who are raising their grandchildren. School officials estimate that up to 45 percent of children in McDowell County are not living with their parents, a much higher proportion than the state and national averages.

Nationwide, 5 percent of children don't live with either parent, and 4 percent of children live with their grandparents, according to data compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In West Virginia, these percentages are slightly higher, with 8 percent of children living with neither parent, and 5 percent living with grandparents.

To provide more support to families, Reconnecting McDowell, a collaborative effort led by the American Federation of Teachers and more than 125 nonprofits, government organizations, and private businesses, is trying to offer more services specifically for grandparents. The segment focused on the McDowell County school district, which runs a support group for grandparents, as well as local employees of the nonprofit Save the Children, who make home visits to deliver resources, teach grandparents how to read with their grandchildren, and talk about child health and well-being.   

Bob Brown of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, told Learning Matters TV that it's hard to increase program participation among grandparents. "There is a stigma associated with coming out, if you will, that you are raising your grandchildren because your children won't raise them," Brown said. "We just need to get people to feel comfortable coming."

Check out part one and part two on the PBS Newshour website. 

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