Raising children when parents are young brings its share of trials and tribulations, but how much more difficult is it when they have to do it the second time around?
If grandparents raising grandchildren feel isolated and helpless, there is help at hand in the community.
That’s the message new Duet employee Lisa McCormick of Chandler wants to spread.
At the Phoenix-based nonprofit Duet: Partners in Health & Aging, McCormick works as a kinship care services coordinator to help grandparents raising grandchildren.
“Grandparents have reported feeling ‘alone’ due to not having family and support or understanding from their social circles,” said McCormick, who began her job this month. “They struggle to find resources and support with navigating the complicated state and legal systems which become involved in these situations.”
According to grandfamilies.org, more than 60,000 grandparents in Arizona are responsible for their grandchildren. The reasons run the gamut from parents being incarcerated, becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol, child abuse, neglect or parental death.
In 2020, Duet provided services to 359 grandparents and their 539 grandchildren in Maricopa County.
Duet’s grandparents raising grandchildren program offers support for grandparents raising grandchildren through free-of-charge support groups, legal guidance and assistance, funds for extracurricular activities, information and guided assistance and educational workshops.
All services meet COVID-19 safety guidelines, according to the nonprofit.
McCormick fields inquiries for resources, legal assistance and guidance on navigating the multiple systems grandparents must learn to take on. She plans to organize four support groups monthly to give the kinship families a safe place to feel heard and find resources amongst each other.
She is making connections with community agencies and partners providing resources and participating in advocacy groups to support legislation and policies around kinship care and the families.
McCormick will also be hosting workshops to build protective factors in the families to increase their knowledge on parenting, child development, self-care, advocacy and related other topics.
McCormick pulls experience from working with families for five years at Southwest Human Development in the East Valley.
“This is the first time I am working with the aging population and kinship families specifically,” she said.
An Arizona native who was born in Mesa, raised in Tempe and moved to Chandler 15 years ago, she also comes informed firsthand about the difficulties of raising grandchildren from her extended family.
“I am recalling the experiences of my mother-in-law and other extended family members whom have been raising grandchildren over the past 20 years,” she said. “I am surprised and saddened to know they did not know this agency existed and the resources which would have been available to them during their experiences.”
McCormick said she became a social worker because of the gap she noticed in connecting people to resources in the community.
“I work hard to build relationships with other agencies and organizations to better support the families I serve,” she said.
Her own grandparents played the traditional role of grandparenting; they were present and supportive of her parents.
“However, they did not play an active role in raising my sister and I,” she said. “My grandma Pat played a role in aiding my passion for helping others; she was a registered nurse at skilled nursing facilities here in the Valley and I would go with her on ‘take your daughter to work’ days when I was in grade school.
“My other set of grandparents were entrepreneurs in the community, they had multiple businesses in East Mesa including a gift shop and auction house. My sister and I would spend our weekends helping in the shop or at the auction,” she recalled.
McCormick has been married to Kurt, her high school sweetheart, for 22 years. They have three daughters, Alexa, 22, Sarah, 17, and Emily, 15. The younger two attend Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe.
She herself earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota in 2017.
Her studies further nurtured her interest in social service and interacting with people.
“I love facilitating groups and trainings so I am looking forward to running support groups and workshops throughout the month for our grandfamilies,” she said.
“I am passionate about advocacy and macro-level change to enrich the communities I support. I am excited about the opportunities I will get to engage in on this level through coalitions and organizations whom partner with Duet on this mission,” she added.
To find out more about Duet, visit duetaz.org or call 602-274-5022.