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Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

On July 8, 2008, the Child Advocate bill was signed into law which included the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (Section 1 of Chapter 176, the Acts of 2008 M.G.L. Chapter 3, section 69). This legislation calls for a permanent commission on the status of grandparents raising grandchildren which consists of 15 individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to grandparents.

The Commissioners

Commission Activities and Communication

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John Lepper, Chair

Lynn Girton, Vice-Chair

Kerry Bickford, Secretary/Treasurer

Margo Chevers, Commissioner

Paul Donato, Commissioner

Patricia Jehlen, Commissioner

Lori Sousa, Commissioner

Douglas H Spicer, Commissioner

Skip Stuck, Commissioner

Ilene Mitchell, Commissioner

John Laing, Commissioner

Dan Lewis, Commissioner

Denise Bradley, Commissioner

Gail Garinger, Commissioner

Colleen Pritoni, GRG Coordinator

Many of you are familiar with JOHN LEPPER, chair of the Commission since its inception (2009) and seven-time state representative (Attleboro) until 2008. John’s “retirement” project has been to work tirelessly and selflessly on behalf of grandparents raising grandchildren in the state of Massachusetts. This link will take you to articles that give a much better picture of the sequence of events than we could have, so, in honor of his 80th birthday (this past December), we would like to honor John’s dedication and commitment, and say THANKS!

COMMISSION HONORED. The Commission was recognized as a leader at the National Family Caregiver Month ceremony at the Statehouse on November 2, 2015.

The Fourth Annual Grandparents Raising Grandchildren conference was another tremendous success. Held at a new location, the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlboro on June 10th, 2015, registrations for the full day event filled up early, with 120 guests registered and a number of others on a waiting list (we hope to accommodate a larger audience next year). The attendees were an eclectic group of grandparent and relative caregivers, social workers, social service agencies, state representatives and their staffers, judges and court personnel. The conference featured an expanded series of workshops, an awards ceremony and keynote speakers and, once again, the interactive "World Cafe".

Commissioner Kerry Bickford was recently recognized for her contributions to the community and beyond, with the 2015 Human Rights award. This is a national award given at a local level by the Church Women United, under the United Nations. Kerry's commitment to Grandparents Raising Grandchildren in Massachusetts was highlighted in the awards ceremony on January 20, 2015.

The Today Show reports on "The new work-life balance: Grandparents struggle to juggle it all" including an interview with Massachusetts Commissioner and volunteer Kerry Bickford.

The Sixth Annual Report of the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren for calendar year 2014.

Commission Meetings

All Commission meetings are open to the public. Dates, times and locations are posted at www.mass.gov/elders

The Commission’s responsibilities include:

The Commission spent its first year (2009-10) conducting a Learning Tour across the state, in order to identify the issues that were of most concern to grandparents and kin (Listening and Learning Tour). By using the feedback from that tour, a written report Listening Tour Report; and an article Grandparents raising Grandchildren, from toiling to spoiling were developed. Also as a result of these findings, the Commission created four sub-committees to further explore the most urgent issues and begin to make appropriate recommendations. They are:

  1. Legal information and access to legal services 		 Lynn Girton, chair

  2. The Legal Sub-Committee of the Commission focuses on many issues. Its members give presentations throughout the state to grandparents who are raising grandchildren and various service agencies about the legal relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild. As a part of these efforts, the Sub-Committee creates resource materials that help grandparents raising grandchildren understand their rights and responsibilities. This Sub-Committee also works on expanding the legal resources that are available to grandparents. We advocate with various publicly funded legal services programs to provide lawyers to eligible grandparents seeking to obtain either guardianship or adoption of the child for whom they are caring. We approach various bar associations to see if they are able to make additional resources available to such grandparents. You can find information on legal resources on this page as well as in the Helpful Links section on this website. Finally, members of this Sub-Committee review and comment upon proposed legislation that might impact on grandparents raising grandchildren. Members also inform other members of the Commission about relevant court decisions or changes in practice in the courts.

  3. Information and Referral / Interagency 				 Kerry Bickford, chair
    collaboration / Navigating the system 				 Skip Stuck, co-chair

  4. Economic support and self sufficiency 				 John Lepper, chair

  5. Strategies to create and sustain support groups 		 Margo Cheevers, chair
    for grandparents and kin across the state

Although Commissioners chair working groups, there are many community members and organizations represented on these committees who have made generous contributions of time and ongoing support. As a result, we have made great progress moving forward on many initiatives that empower and educate grandparents about the choices that they have and the resources available to them. Much of this work is done by volunteers.

In addition, some of the Commissioners run support groups, others represent the Commission at events when we are invited to present, and still others spend many hours behind the scenes talking to grandparents, community groups, and advancing the work of the Commission on the legislative level.

We are hoping that this website is a place we can share information and tools that reflect the work we are doing on each of these issues, and we welcome your input, questions, corrections and comments!

We are committed to the grandparents' voice, and we invite you learn more about the Commission and especially to work with us as we continue to move forward. Grandparents contribute so much to their families and communities. Please join us in supporting them.

To contact the Commission:

Mail: Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
c/o Colleen Pritoni, GRG Coordinator, 600 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02111
Email: colleen.pritoni@state.ma.us
Telephone: 617-748-2454

Click here for a one page (PDF) description of the Grandparent Commission.

Brought to you by the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren of Massachusetts