By Mike Wade  |  NRVCS

Statewide data from 2017 indicates that nearly 68,000 grandparents in Virginia are currently serving as the primary caregiver for their grandchildren. A significant number of these family situations have developed in the wake of the opioid crisis, as scores of parents with addiction have either overdosed or been incarcerated for substance-related charges.

Radford, of course, is not immune to this growing trend. In fact, estimates from the most recent U.S. Census data show that roughly 150 households in Radford are comprised of grandparents raising grandchildren.

Members of the Presbyterian Church of Radford are hoping a new support group will help connect those families to resources and equip them with knowledge and skills that will make life at home a little easier. The support group’s first meeting will take place Wednesday, September 4 from 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon at the church (corner of Randolph and 4th Streets).

This effort is being spearheaded by two of the congregation’s members: Dr. Florence Mogen, a local pediatrician; and Annyce Levy, a retired school nurse. Mogen and Levy recently connected with NRVCS (New River Valley Community Services) to help get the support group established, as NRVCS currently offers similar support groups in both Pulaski and Dublin.

“I’ve definitely seen more and more of this in my practice over the last few years,” notes Dr. Mogen. “It happens for a lot of reasons I suppose, but regardless of the circumstances, it can be a very difficult situation for grandparents.”

Rebecca Moore, an Integrative Health Liaison with NRVCS, will serve as the support group’s facilitator. Moore has a background in court supervision of youth, mentoring services, anger management services, and has provided school-based clinical services to youth over a period of seven years.

Levy, who once served on the NRVCS Board of Directors, was also actively involved with launching the original Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) support groups in Pulaski.

“For years, we’ve all known of families who find themselves in this situation,” Levy adds, “but those situations used to be more isolated.”

“That’s definitely no longer the case,” continues Levy. “So, we have to recognize this as a community and do what we can to help.”

In Moore’s current role at NRVCS, she acts as a bridge between local pediatric offices and NRVCS, linking patients to needed services for mental health and/or substance use disorders.

“It really comes down to working with children and their families on finding ways to increase healthy interaction with one another,” explains Moore. “That, plus improved communication skills, can really make a difference in overall family functioning.”

“For the grandparents – or other family member – who might be raising a relative’s child, this can be a time of high stress,” Moore says. “That’s common in most families from time-to-time but these situations can be even more difficult. So, it is important for those caregivers to also take care of themselves.”

Plans are for the support group to meet the first Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. – 12 noon. The meeting on September 4 will serve as a welcome/open house. Moore says each monthly meeting will include time for socialization and peer support, as well as an educational component, skills building, and self-care.

Light refreshments will be provided at each meeting. Levy and Dr. Mogen also point out that families attending the GRG support group will also be invited to stay and have lunch with the Church’s “Lunch Bunch” group.

“Whether it’s helping families address academics and issues at school, or giving them tips on social media and internet safety, we want to do what we can to help,” Dr. Mogen concludes.

If you are interested in attending the group or learning more, please contact Rebecca Moore at rmoore@nrvcs.org.