Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

How to start a grandfamilies support group

If you have found on the support group page that there is no support group in your community, you may consider starting a support group of your own. Here are seven steps that you should consider when starting a grandfamilies support group.

  1. Evaluate yourself as a support group leader. You should ask yourself the following questions:
    a. Do you have the time and commitment to dedicate to attending all support group meetings?
    b. Are you comfortable in front of a group?
    c. Do you have the skills to facilitate discussion and keep the meeting on track?
    d. Are you a good listener?
    e. Are you resourceful?
    f. Do have the ability to network and publicize the support group?
  2. Find a co-leader (or two). As a support group leader you will find that there are many tasks and responsibilities that you will need to complete in order for the support group to be successful. At times you may not be able to attend a meeting. As a result, it is a good idea to have one or two co-leaders that you can depend on to assist with tasks or run a meeting in your absence.
  3. Focus on the five Ws: Who, What, Where, When and Why!
    a. Who: You have already established this – grandfamilies. However, you might find that in your community there are many grandparents raising grandchildren. As a result, you may narrow your support group to grandparents with adolescent aged children, or kinship providers only, grandparents who are receiving services from human services. Either way, you should be clear about the population you will serve.
    b. What: Having a title for your support group is crucial. Therefore, what are you going to call the group? You may decide to discuss the name during your first meeting. This will allow for “buy-in” from participants and will likely lead them to come back for more meetings.
    c. Where: Where are you going to meet? Usually support groups meet at local places. Is there a local church/synagogue/place of worship/community agency that will let you meet for free? Will you meet at someone’s home? Generally, smaller groups may want to meet at someone’s home or at a restaurant.
    d. When: Timing is crucial to the success of support groups. Therefore, when are you going to meet? Meetings may take place quarterly, monthly, weekly, and even daily (if needed). In the beginning you may consider starting slowly and meeting quarterly or monthly. Once you determine that you can take on the responsibility of leading a support group you may consider meeting more often. Next, you must consider the time of day that you will meet. You may think about work and school schedules as you decide on a time of day. Finally, you should think about the amount of time the group will meet. Usually support groups meet for an hour and a half to two hours.
    e. Why: So, why are you forming this support group? Is it because there are no grandfamilies support groups in your community or is it that there are but the group that currently meets is not “meeting” your needs and other grandfamilies. Either way, you should be clear about the reason for forming a support group.
  4. Meeting format is the next item that you should establish. Regardless of the meeting schedule, make sure they start and end on time!
  5. Think about what topics you might want to cover during the meetings. It is best to cover one topic at a time. Common topics that grandfamilies may need assistance with include (but are not limited to): connecting with your partner/spouse during this time, discipling your grandchild(ren), financial resources, grief and loss, legal issues, managing your emotions, supporting your grandchild through school, and taking care of your health.
  6. Publicize your grandfamilies support group. First, make sure you contact Jacque Miller at jacque.miller@colostate.edu so that we can post your support group on this website. Next, check your local newspaper to see if there is a section for community news and meeting announcements. You may also talk with a reporter about featuring your grandfamilies support group or a local radio host to announce the meeting on the air. This not only helps with publicizing your meeting but also educating your community about grandfamilies. Finally, create a fun and attractive flyer that you can post (once you have received permission) at hospitals, pharmacies, coffee shops, and public bulletin boards.
  7. Try to get everyone involved during the meeting. You may find that sharing takes time, as support group members build trust and become more comfortable expressing their experiences.

Additional resources:

Klein, L. L. (2000). The support group sourcebook. Wiley, John & Sons (publisher).

Facilitator Guides for Grandparents Discussion Groups. University of Arizona: http://cals.arizona.edu/pubs/family/az1488.pdf

Please note: These steps were guided by Richard’s (2006) article on about.com and by Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension System.