The Grandparent System Support Program (GSSP) was created in response to a recognized growing need in our community: supporting grandparents who have the sole responsibility for raising their grandchild or grandchildren. Simcoe Community Services was awarded a four year Ontario Trillium Foundation grant in March 2015 to raise awareness in our community, build a system of supports, and provide education and referrals for Grandparents Parenting Again.
Over the past four years we have experienced many successes in terms of bringing awareness to our community about this growing demographic. Over the life of the grant the GSSP provided support to over 180 Grandparents who are parenting their grandchildren. Grandparents taught us so much about their unique needs and we have been privileged to walk alongside them as they entrusted us with their stories. We learned that the majority of grandchildren come into the care of their grandparents due to parental mental health and substance use challenges. There are many other reasons grandchildren are cared for by their grandparents such as incarceration, death and parenting capacity. Grandparents who take on this responsibility have shown us how resilient they are but have also shown us how vulnerable they are without a robust support system.
The evidence we obtained clearly demonstrated that with support Grandparents can and do provide a loving, sustainable, thriving home environment for their grandchild, however, without support Grandparents face significant challenges to meet ongoing needs. With supports both grandparents and their grandchild can experience the best possible outcomes for development, health, security and stability.
We are pleased to report that The Adoption Council of Ontario (ACO) will be providing ongoing support and training for a number of grandparents to facilitate peer support groups. Peer support groups are an important source of support as grandparents have told us that having someone to share their joys, frustrations and challenges with who has lived experience provides hope and increases resiliency. As well, the Barrie Native Friendship Centre will continue to provide meeting space for the peer support group in Barrie.
We have also created an online resource centre for Grandparents, Kin-families and Foster families that touches on the key areas grandparents identified they needed support for or education about.