Healthy Grandfamilies Program director, graduates testify at State Capitol

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — Since it’s inception in 2018, the Healthy Grandfamilies program has served more than 600 West Virginia families. But helping that many people takes money, something the program is still in need of for the next calendar year.

On Wednesday, WVSU Healthy Grandfamilies’ Bonnie Dunn testified in front of the West Virginia House of Delegate’s Senior, Children, and Family Issues Committee. Dunn was joined by representatives from different agencies across the state, as well as grandparents who have gone through the program.

“When you try to do your best to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. I mean I didn’t give up,” said grandparent, Donna Bennett, testifying about her experience through the program. “That wasn’t the end of this, we made it. We got through.”

Bennett and her husband are raising their seven-year-old granddaughter, Jordan. Bennett has already raised six other kinship children and there is a possibility that they may receive two more.

“It is really encouraging that you have someone else to share your story and to help you through things you are going through,” added Bennett. “It [the program] was very, very helpful mentally and emotionally for us.”

The program offers support through weekly courses. More importantly, according to Program Director Bonnie Dunn, the program serves as a point of contact for grandparents learning how to parent in the 21st century, by pointing those grandparents to resources and programs that will assist them.

The pilot program was launched in 2018. Last year, training sessions were held in all 55 counties across the state. Currently, 22 counties have programs implemented.

During the 2019 Legislative session, funding for the program was secured. Dunn is hoping for the same result after Wednesday’s testimony.

“We have started a good thing, we have a good thing going.”

“Last year, you all asked me to get training to every county… I did that,” Dunn said while addressing the committee members. “Now we have to keep this going, we can’t let these families down.”

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