For nearly 4.9 million American children, going to grandma’s house means going home*. That’s because 2.7 million grandparents are stepping up to the plate as primary caregivers for their grandchildren*. But who cares for these caregivers? Meet someone who has found her calling as an advocate for kinship caregivers, Yvonne Garces, MSW, Family Service Associate, Children’s Mobile Health.
Yvonne started her career as a social worker at Children’s National in 2003. During her tenure at Children’s she has noticed a steady increase in grandparents who have found themselves in the unanticipated position as primary caregivers for their grandchildren. “The grandparents come to me overwhelmed, looking for emotional support, and in need of services and resources to help them raise their grandchildren,” said Yvonne.
Yvonne developed and implemented the Grandparent Support Group at the Children’s Health Center at THEARC in 2006. Meeting on a monthly basis, the group enables grandparents and other kinship caregivers to access legal advice, review custody issues, discover social programs, and receive counseling and guidance.
“The grandparents in the group usually come to us feeling alone, feeling that they were the only ones in that situation,” said Yvonne. “Through the Grandparents Support Group, these caregivers have realized that they are not alone in this situation and that grandparents have been taking care of their grandchildren for centuries!”
In an effort to assist grandparents in achieving balance between caring for their grandchildren and themselves, the group also provides workshops and other programs that promote health and wellness for kinship caregivers. “I see a lot of the grandparent caregivers who have their own medical issues to deal with on top of their grandchildren’s. I try to connect those grandparents with outside services and healthcare as well,” said Yvonne.
It’s her selfless dedication to this often overlooked group of caregivers that earned Yvonne the “Power of One” Award this April. “Our team was very moved by Yvonne’s dedication to grandparents who are serving as caregivers. What a compassionate and enriching way to support them!” said Melissa Winter, Executive Director, Service Excellence.
While Yvonne remains humble about her recent award, her supervisor, Ellen Wiggins, LICSW, MSW, was overflowing with praise for her. “Yvonne is kind, generous, caring, and empathetic. She’s a social worker as you know, and she’s a natural,” said Ellen. “She has gone above and beyond the call of duty with her grandparents group and embodies service excellence.”
The Power of One Award is an awards program for Children's National's employees who have demonstrated one of our vision principals: thinking differently, finding what works better, making creative connections, and never forgetting who we are caring for. Each month, Safety and Service Excellence coaches review and vote for one employee to receive the Power of One Award from the submitted monthly nominations.
“I’m very grateful and thankful for the award. But I don’t work for awards; I work because I want to provide service to those who need it. I’d be doing this no matter what!” said Yvonne.
Yvonne describes her job as very spiritual and feels it has made a deep emotional impact on her. “I love this job because of the grandchildren and their grandparents. I never knew my grandmother, because she passed away so young. I always wanted to have that relationship,” said Yvonne. “I see how close the grandparents are with their grandchildren; they sacrifice for them and love them. I missed that with my grandmother. I want to make sure that other grandchildren get that experience and the Grandparents Group enables me to do that.”
Yvonne would like to just thank her supervisor, Ellen Wiggins, and the Staff at Mobile Health for providing her with continued support and assistance during her endeavor with the Grandparents Support Group.
*Source: Families and Living Arrangements: 2010 http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam/cps2010.html, Table C4
*Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 American Community Survey, http://factfinder.census.gov/, Table B10056