CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — 2.7 million grandparents will find themselves raising their grandchildren. It’s a national trend, but one that hits close to home in the Mountain State. 

West Virginia is tied for second in the nation when it comes to the number of grandparents raising grandkids. According to data taken from the U.S. Census, more than 21,000 grandparents in the state will find themselves raising their grandkids. 

One in 2.7 Million

Joann Gregory spent 22 years working in the Kanawha County School System. She retired in 2015, months before her world would change forever. 

“My daughter was murdered by her boyfriend,” Joann explained. “She left behind five daughters.” 

As if grieving her daughter’s death wasn’t enough, Joann found herself now responsible for her grand-daughter, Makayia. At the time, Makayia was only 5-years-old. 

Making Choices 

Joann welcomed Makayia with open arms but said it wasn’t an easy adjustment. 

“Things were hard. I wasn’t planning on raising any other kids. I had raised my three, I thought I was done,” Joann explained. 

The biggest struggle, according to Joann, was the finances — as taking in a child on a limited retired teachers salary wasn’t ideal. 

“I had to make choices,” recalled the 66-year-old. “At one point, I had to choose between the house and the car. We couldn’t keep both…  So we went without a car for a year and a half.” 

A Helping Hand 

Then Joann Gregory met Bonnie Dunn and Yvonne Lee with West Virginia State University’s Healthy Grandfamilies Program. 

Healthy Grandfamilies is a free initiative led by WVSU to provide information and resources to grandparents who find themselves in a similar situation to Joann Gregory — raising one or maybe more of their grandchildren. The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Designed as a series of nine discussion sessions and follow-up services, each session provides valuable resources along with childcare for attendees. The nine-week courses include: 

  • Parenting in the 21st Century
  • Family Relationships: A new dynamic
  • Communication: When no one talks and everyone texts
  • Technology & Social Media: The dangers, pitfalls & plusses
  • Nutrition: Balancing diets when everyone is “on the go”
  • Legal Issues & Documents: Getting past all the legal issues to learn “who is really in charge”
  • Health Literacy & Self-Care: How to take care of your own health issues in this new family dynamic
  • Healthy Lifestyles & Stress Management: Learn how to manage your stress — and the stress of your grandchildren
  • Negotiating the Public School System: Learn about Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) and how to help your grandchildren with homework

In addition, the program also provides three months of follow-up services with a licensed social worker, who can help with locating other community resources.