|Kansas City Housing Authority|
Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies Program
Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies provides housing and case management for grandparents raising their grandchildren. Funding from Jackson County COMBAT provides the salary and a portion of the fringe benefits for the program's Case Manager position.
The case manager works to address the difficulties and complex issues arising from grandparents raising grandchildren, and assists these grandfamilies with support and referrals as they encounter life's ups-and-downs.
Grandfamilies comprise two vulnerable, at-risk populations: elderly caregivers living in public housing on a fixed income; and children whose birth parent(s) are not present, who have experienced significant trauma, and are growing up in public housing. Without intervention, the grandchildren would be more susceptible to violence, drug abuse and involvement with gangs, and they would be more likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.
There are multiple problems confronting the residents of Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies.The first is housing as these elderly residentsm living on a fixed income in public housing, are raising severely traumatized grandchildren.
The Housing Authority of Kansas City's (HAKC) Senior Housing developments do not allow children to be present in the household. Conversely, HAKC's family Low-Income Public Housing developments are not conducive to aging in place.
Therefore, Pemberton Park for Grandfamlies was designed to accommodate both an elderly-disabled population, while allowing for a younger population to grow and thrive.
The second problem is that grandfamilies are composed of two severely traumatized cohorts: grandparents raising their grandchildren, and grandchildren who do not have their birth parents involved in their lives. The grandparents are experiencing the stressors of aging, such as declining mobility, loneliness and the economic hardships of aging on a fixed income. Additionally, for a population expecting to enter their “golden years,” they now find themselves parenting when they thought their parenting years were over. They find themselves aging, isolated from their friends, saddled with the responsibility of raising a child in a world that is rapidly changing, and, during the past two years, a chaotic, bewildering, and frightening pandemic.
Helping Traumatized Children
The grandchildren at Pemberton Park experience a different set of challenges. Every single grandchild has had their parents exit their lives (sometimes repeatedly) due to drug/alcohol abuse, incarceration or simple abandonment. Under normal circumstances, these children are primed to not succeed in life as they would be expected to confront this trauma without any help. Additionally, they are now living with their grandparents, who may not understand the world that the children are living in and therefore may not have anyone to help them navigate their entry into adulthood.
They can find themselves angry, isolated and attracted to anti-social groups and activities like gangs, bullying and drug-alcohol abuse. These problems, unaddressed, will result in a new generation negatively interacting with law enforcement and the criminal justice system, grandparents aging and dying in extreme poverty, and vulnerable children growing up in a fraught environment and seeing little hope to transcend their circumstances.Then, a pandemic hit.
The Housing Authority of Kansas City and Jackson County COMBAT have partnered for years to successfully address these issues. The Case Manager at Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies has brought in outside partners to provide therapy and support groups, tutoring, and even field trips to universities and museums to provide opportunities for growth and enrichment. However, COVID-19 has compounded old problems and created new ones.
Due to lockdowns, underlying mental health issues, and lingering fears regarding contracting COVID-19, the grandparents (despite the best efforts of the case manager at Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies) have elected to stay in their apartments. Unfortunately, this staying inside more is not translating to a greater transmission of knowledge and skills between the generations. There is now a cohort of grandchildren about to age out of residency at Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies who lack the wherewithal to transition successfully into adulthood.
According to the Case Manager at Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies, the wherewithal of this group of young adults to survive on their own without significant inputs from public resources for housing assistance and social services for health care, food and other supports, is not there. This group is incredibly vulnerable and has previously elected not to access programming offered at Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies. Therefore, HAKC feels significant intervention in the form of life-skills classes and financial literacy classes are merited. HAKC proposes, with assistance from Jackson County COMBAT, to address these by having the Case Manager refocus their efforts to engage with the Grandfamilies.
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Pemberton Park for Grandfamilies, 5010 Cleveland Ave., Kansas City, MO 64130