Friday, February 06, 2015

High number of grandparents raising their children's children in rural West Virginia

John Tulenko of PBS NewsHour told a compelling story this week about the rising number of West Virginia grandparents who must raise a second generation of children, especially in McDowell County—one of the nation's poorest countibes—where as much as 45 percent of children live apart from their mothers and fathers.

"This is coal country, with mines that once employed some 20,000 workers and a prosperous county seat they called Little New York," Tulenko reports. "All that’s gone. Unemployment rates here are among the highest in the state, and McDowell County (FamilySearch map) ranks first in poor health, child poverty and drug overdose. And that, more than anything else, is what accounts for so many children living apart from their parents."

Jamie Mathis, who is raising both of her grandsons in McDowell County, told Tulenko the reason she is raising her children's children is because of "drugs and alcohol, confusion, parents not wanting to be parents. I just wanted the boys because I wanted to know that they were safe."

That's a major concern in McDowell County, which has led to the formation of Reconnecting McDowell, "which plans to provide school-based medical, dental and mental health services for children and their parents," Tulenko reports. Bob Brown, of the American Federation of Teachers, told Tulenko, "It’s not just what happens in the school. I can tell you, if you add up the hours that a child spends in school between kindergarten and 12th grade, it’s about 9 percent of their life. We need to be concerned about the other 91 percent of their life. What’s going in the other 91 percent? And that’s what this is about." (Read more)

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