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New book looks at the ‘grandfamily’ phenomenon


By Stephen D'Angelo for the Cornell Chronicle

Approximately 1.6 million American children live in what social scientists call “grandfamilies”– households in which children are being raised by their grandparents. A new book by Rachel Dunifon, interim dean of the College of Human Ecology and professor of policy analysis and management, examines this understudied family type, analyzing their unique strengths and distinct needs.

“You’ve Always Been There for Me: Understanding the Lives of Grandchildren Raised by Grandparents” contributes to the fields of family studies and gerontology, shedding new light on the dynamics in grandfamily households.

portrait of Rachel Dunifon

Rachel Dunifon

“My goal is to increase our understanding of an important, but less understood, type of family, and to ‘get under the roof’ of grandfamily households by using a multi-method approach to interviewing teenagers and the grandparents who are raising them,” Dunifon said.

Grandfamilies are largely hidden in American society, flying under the radar of social service agencies, policymakers and family researchers.

“From a research perspective, it is important to broaden our understanding of what we mean when we say ‘family’ and to acknowledge not only the diversity of different family types, but also the many strengths that can be found in various types of families,” she said. “From a policy and practice perspective, my hope is that we will better be able to develop policies and programs to support grandfamilies if we have a better understanding of what life is really like in such households.”

Dunifon traveled across New York state, with research collaborator and Senior Cornell Cooperative Extension Associate Kim Kopko, to interview families in which grandparents were raising grandchildren in New York City, smaller cities, suburbs and very rural communities.

Dunifon and her team worked closely with staff at community agencies throughout the research process, identifying topics to be examined, recruiting families, interpreting results, and using the results to inform current and ongoing programs for families.

“In the vast majority of the grandfamilies I interviewed, the grandparent had been raising the grandchild since a very early age and planned to do so indefinitely,” Dunifon said. “So grandparents are playing a crucial role in society by providing support, both financial and emotional, for their grandchildren.”

According to Dunifon, grandfamilies face financial strain due to not only raising a grandchild on a limited budget during years in which many grandparents are no longer working, but also a very high rate of health problems among both grandparents and grandchildren and repeated legal battles with the child’s parents.

A key takeaway, Dunifon said, is that grandfamilies have many strengths. In particular she noted the frequent and genuine expressions of love and appreciation that grandparents and grandchildren communicate to each other.

Grandparents are grateful for the opportunity to have such a special relationship with their grandchild, say that raising their grandchildren keeps them young, and feel that doing so also gives them a valuable sense of purpose, she said.

In turn, “grandchildren very clearly appreciate that their grandparents rescued them from a very challenging situation living in their parental home and that they provide them with unconditional love and support – as can be seen in the title, which is a quote from one of the teenagers I interviewed,” Dunifon said.

Dunifon’s research focuses on child and family policy, examining the ways in which policies, programs and family settings influence the development of less-advantaged children. She is co-director of Cornell Project 2Gen, which combines research, policy and practice to address the needs of vulnerable children and their parents. Recently, Dunifon and her colleagues were awarded the inaugural William T. Grant Foundation Institutional Challenge Grant for their project “Protecting Vulnerable Children and Families in the Crosshairs of the Opioid Epidemic: A Research-Practice Partnership.” She is the coauthor or coeditor of several books, including “Research for the Public Good.”


Related:

Community input in the formation of Rachel Dunifon’s Role of Grandparents study
Grant unites Project 2Gen, partners in fight against opioids
New book: “Research for the Public Good”

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: children    family    grandparents    Kim Kopko    New York    Rachel Dunifon   

Talks at Twelve: Kimberly Kopko, Sharon Tennyson, John Sipple, Wednesday, October 17, 2018

 
portrait of Kimberly Kopko

Enhancing the Impact of School-Based Health Centers in Rural NY via Parenting Education
Kimberly Kopko, Sharon Tennyson, John Sipple - Cornell University

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
12:00-1:00 PM
ILR Conference Center, Room 225



This integrated pilot project explores the feasibility and impact of expanding existing services provided by School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) in rural New York to enhance the sustainability of healthy families and communities. Based on site visits, meetings, interviews, parent surveys, literature reviews and a four-county quantitative study of healthcare access and outcomes across generations, our multidisciplinary team of applied research, extension and healthcare professionals developed a two-generation community-centered response model based on expanding parent education and support services through SBHCs. Extending the scope of parent support services at SBHCs in rural communities may be a sustainable and cost-effective way to enhance the positive role they play in these areas.


Kimberly Kopko received her Ph.D. in child development from the Department of Human Development at Cornell University and joined the Department of Policy Analysis & Management in the College of Human Ecology after spending a year as an assistant professor of psychology at Ithaca College.  Her research and extension work examines parenting and family processes. Current research and outreach projects include: parenting and child learning, parenting education in School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs), teens being raised by custodial grandparents, and the use of research and evidence-based parent education programs to promote positive parenting behaviors and strengthen families.  Ongoing academic and research interests incorporate an international dimension with a focus on parenting and family support and comparative parenting, family, and child social policies in Scandinavian countries.

Sharon Tennyson is a professor at Cornell University in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, a core faculty member of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA), and director of graduate studies for the field of public affairs. She is a member of the advisory board of Cornell's Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and faculty coordinator of the Einaudi Center's Working Group on Disasters.

An economist by training, Dr. Tennyson's primary research focus is the impact of laws and government regulations on the wellbeing of consumers in markets. Recognizing that government actions may alter firms' operations and/or consumers' decisions in markets, her work explores the effects of regulations on these behaviors and the changes in market outcomes that result.  Much of her work has studied insurance markets, but she has also written on the regulation of credit cards, prescription drugs and airlines.

From 2014-2017 Dr. Tennyson served as director of CIPA, and from 2012-2017 she served as editor of the Journal of Consumer Affairs. She is a former president of the Risk Theory Society, and began her career as an assistant professor in the Department of Insurance and Risk Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

John W. Sipple, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Development Sociology at Cornell University. He serves as director of the New York State Center for Rural Schools, faculty director of Cornell’s Community and Regional Development Institute, co-editor of the academic journal Community Development, and served three years as a state-appointed monitor for the East Ramapo (NY) School District. Prof. Sipple studies the linkages between the $600 Billion/year K-12 educational system and the vitality of local communities. This includes problems and policies related to equity in state assessment, earlycare and PreK, demographic change, and the intersection of school-based health clinics and broader community well-being. He leads an effort to put data in the hands of local decision makers via useful and easy-to-use data tools (NYEducationData.org). He has published broadly in academic journals and books and presented at regional, national, and international conferences. He is a former 7th and 8th grade science and mathematics teacher, earned his B.A. from Dartmouth College, an ME.d from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.


Lunch will be provided.
This event is free and open to all. No registration is required, but groups of 10 or more, please inform Lori Biechele of your plans to attend so enough lunch can be ordered.

Parking is available on Garden Ave., in the Hoy Garage or at various Parkmobile lots.  Please stop at any information booth for assistance.

For further parking info, see:
Short-term parking options
Parkmobile map

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: BCTR Talks at Twelve    education    health    Kimberly Kopko    New York    parenting   

Getting youth to drink water, not sugar


young man drinking a bottle of water with the text "drink water." Text at the bottom "Make the healthy choice. Give your body the water it needs" NY State Department of HealthResearchers from the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research helped inform new public service advertisements created by the New York Department of Health to educate youth about the dangers of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Researchers working on the ACT for Youth project conducted two rounds of focus groups in the summer/fall of 2017 and spring of 2018 to test possible messages that would encourage young minority males to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

“The story demonstrates our ability to conduct research with youth across the state in order to help NYSDOH better serve and reach youth, ultimately helping—we hope-- to improve health,” said Karen Schantz, the communications coordinator for ACT For Youth.

A significant number of youth drink sugary beverages regularly. In one study conducted from 2011-2014, more than 60 percent of adolescent boys drank a sugar-sweetened beverage each day. This is alarming considering there is clear evidence that these beverages are associated with obesity, poor dental health and other health problems.

Amanda Purington, the director of evaluation and research for ACT for Youth, managed the focus groups. In them, groups of adolescent boys from western and central New York answered questions about the definition of “sugary” beverages and how much they consumed, and then evaluated sample ads created to encourage youth to avoid sweetened beverages.

“Many of the young people we talked with thought that sports drinks were healthy drinks and if they engaged in an athletic endeavor, they needed to drink them to replace electrolytes,” Purington said. “So, unfortunately, the marketing by the sports drink companies is working! On the whole, the youth were surprised by the amount of sugar in sports drinks because they really thought they were healthy drinks.”

Youth preferred ads with information, such as the amount of sugar in different kinds of sugary drinks. The most well-received ads struck a balance between providing information and delivering that information in a clear, concise – and often visual – way.

“They also liked having alternatives suggested, like ‘quench your thirst with water instead,’” she said. “But they didn’t just want to be told what to do, they wanted to come to their own conclusions.

“They also wisely acknowledged that a media campaign like this might lead to some short-term behavior change, but may not lead to long-term behavior change, especially in communities where sugary beverages are ingrained in the culture.”

The New York State Department of Health’s media campaign is now live.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Amanda Purington    children    focus group    government    health    Karen Schantz    New York    nutrition    research    youth   

Using disruptive innovation to grow 4-H

Tags: 4-H,   Andy Turner,   CCE,   New York,   video,   youth,  

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

Portrait of Andy Turner

Andy Turner

If you follow business news – and specifically small, up-and-coming companies – you may have heard the term “disruptive innovation.” The theory, developed by Clayton Christensen from the Harvard Business School, describes how a product or process can leap ahead of established market leaders by reducing cost, increasing convenience, and bringing new customers to the table.  Could disruptive innovation help grow 4-H?

Andy Turner, head of the New York State 4-H Youth Development program (administered through and housed in the BCTR) of Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) thinks so. He is applying disruptive innovation theory to 4-H.  His dissertation, published in 2016, documented disruptive innovation at Cornell Cooperative Extension and attempted to identify the factors and conditions allowing innovation to grow and be adopted more widely.

Turner was asked to present his work at the Joint Council of Extension Professionals (JCEP) Virtual Town Hall Meeting in Orlando Florida earlier this year.  Turner and the other panelists discussed the challenges and barriers facing innovation adoption and responsiveness to emerging issues in CCE. The presentation reached a live audience of 300 and an online audience of an additional 500 extension staff from across the country.

Cooperative Extension has existed for more than 100 years with established programs and a track record of success, Turner said. But its approaches and organizational culture may not align well with changes in our culture, demographic shifts, and the impact of the internet on all facets of education.

“As a result, disruptive innovation is particularly relevant to Cooperative Extension as its work shifts to new ways of thinking and acting that will appeal to youth with new challenges, different approaches to learning, and markedly different expectations for engaging with educational institutions,” he said.

Dr. Turner is applying his work on innovation at a critical time for 4-H. 4-H offers an experiential learning approach to reach over 6 million youth annually, with programming in nearly every county in the nation.  However, like many large youth organizations, 4-H participation levels have not been growing, and there are many communities and youth that are underrepresented in 4-H programming.

In response, the national leadership of 4-H has embraced an ambitious growth vision, with the goal of using concepts like disruptive innovation and collaborative design processes to increase 4-H’s enrollment to 10 million youth by 2025.  Turner will be working with national 4-H leadership and private-sector 4-H supporters over the next two years to develop a blueprint for change based on identifying promising innovations already underway within state 4-H programs.

Dr. Turner leads a team of 8 program and administrative leaders at the New York State 4-H Office in the BCTR. You can reach him at ast4cornell.edu.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: 4-H    Andy Turner    CCE    New York    video    youth