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HUNTINGTON — Grandfamilies in Cabell County have a new way to connect with the school district through an initiative put forth by central office administrators.

A term some may not be familiar with, a “grandfamily,” or kinship care, is a common reference to describe a situation where children are being raised by their grandparents.

“We have, in our community, a lot of grandparents that are acting as primary caregivers, and those families are very unique and have different types of needs,” said Ashley Stephens, family and community engagement facilitator for Cabell County Schools.

In those situations, oftentimes grandparents are left without or don’t know how to access certain resources or assist their children with certain new technological components of modern education they’ve not been introduced to before.

To address the issue, Stephens said the concept of a “grandfamilies dinner” came about. Those family groups are able to sign up ahead of time and attend a dinner, while gaining access to resources available to them through the school district.

“This exists so we can address those needs and share with them some resources that we have to offer as a school system,” Stephens said. “Learning on the fly is hard enough, but doing it with a generational gap where maybe you’re not as familiar with what schools looks like now or what discipline and educational support looks like from a parent’s perspective, creates new challenges.”

November’s event was the first of several grandfamily dinners the district plans to host this academic year. Food and child care will be provided at each dinner, but Stephens said it is as much about educating the grandparents as it is anything else.

“At every single one of these, we are bringing resources to the table that they can use and so that they know what’s available to them. Anything that we have access to, we want them to know that they also have access to it,” Stephens said.

The first grandfamilies night focused on communication, something Stephens said is the foundation of everything they do as a school system. The next event will likely be focused on using new technology and accessing school resources during remote learning.

The next event is scheduled for Jan. 31, 2022, at Guyandotte Elementary School in Huntington. Registration for the event and more information about it will be available closer to the event.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeCreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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