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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: Thrive Alliance

We're highlighting the cutting-edge programs and successful strategies used by 2018 recipients of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week we're focusing on Thrive Alliance's Relative Caregiver Support Group, Achievement winner in the Caregiving category.

Thrive Alliance developed a support group for relatives who are raising the children of family members to provide them with a venue to ensure that they focus on their own health and opportunities to connect with others who are in similar situations. The monthly meetings of the Relative Caregiver Support Group include an educational seminar, therapist-facilitated conversation, evening meals and childcare. Older children who attend also have the opportunity to participate in therapist-facilitated conversations.
 
The Relative Caregiver Support Group started with just one conversation. A grandparent raising her grandson mentioned that she was struggling and could not find any information about community resources, services and support for her situation. Christina Rajanyakam, Thrive Alliance's Family Caregiver Services Coordinator, met with a key individual from the school corporation, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC), who mentioned that he saw the growing need in their community for services and supports to grandparents and relatives raising children. BCSC reports that about six percent of middle and high school students live in homes where the primary householder is someone other than their parents—and in most of these homes the grandparent or great-grandparent is the primary householder.
 
Thrive Alliance started its first support group for relative caregivers in January 2017 when it received a grant from the United Way of Bartholomew County to provide services to relative caregivers. Thrive Alliance has developed partnerships with several local organizations to help provide services and form a community-wide coalition. Agencies looking to replicate this program should consider that a community-wide coalition could help tremendously to implement services for relative caregivers. Rajanayakam stated that there's an increased awareness at the federal level for the need to support grandparents raising children and there is also existing funding to provide Information & Referral, education and support. AAAs are well-positioned to provide these services through the Older Americans Act Title III E National Family Caregiver Support Program. Up to 10 percent of III E dollars may be spent by states (and thus AAAs) to support these grandparents and other older relative caregivers of children and youth.
 
As for accomplishments from the program, a 2017 Family Strengths Scale Assessment indicated that 71 percent of grandparents reported an improvement in knowledge about community resources and 57 percent saw an improvement in their ability to understand and better manage their emotions. Eleven families used the Thrive Alliance Caregiver Library to check out books about grief, grandfamilies and related topics.
 
To learn more about this year's winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners to learn how your agency can implement this or similar programs in your community!

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