GrandFamilies Study Commission: Third Meeting - Granite Grok

GrandFamilies Study Commission: Third Meeting

Yesterday was third meeting of the SB131 Grandfamilies Committee – its purpose is to study the needs of Grandparents who are finding themselves, due to circumstances beyond their control, having to care for young ones again.  As readers know, TMEW and I are in this circumstance and are raising our Grandson.  There are many, MANY more in the same circumstances; today at the Lakes Region Porcupine monthly meeting, I was told by one NH State Rep that he knew of a Great-Grandparent family.

As promised in my first reporting on this committee (having been appointed as the Department of Education’s liaison by Commissioner Frank Edelblut), here is my next recounting. This was a different kind of meeting. The previous one was oriented in trying to determine the boundaries of the report to be turned into the Legislature in a year hence. This was was spent, instead gathering topics and areas to study, in canvassing the attendees as to what they can bring to the table. I can’t list all of the folks and the organizations they are associated with and what services they are already providing in this problem domain – it went too fast and I was trying to take it all in (er, fire hose time yet again) in “consultant” mode. It was clear, however, that a lot of services can be brought to bear on this problem, especially for those Grandparents with few means that now have small mouths to feed decades after their first go ’round raising their own children.

Because their children, it has turned out, have failed their own children. While some of these have come about due to illness, accidents, or death, most are drug involved (such as my Youngest).

What was clear, as each talked about what their organizations do, or can do, is that I was the “odd man out”; I’m not a “social services” person. What I CAN do that none of the others can is talk about this Committee with a reach that none of them have – with GraniteGrok. Again, I reminded them that along with being a Grandparent in their target “market”,  the ‘Grok is a Right of Center political blogsite.  While there were a few eyebrows raised at that (in listening to the small talk, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where many are on the political spectrum), eyes widened when I said that our online traffic was larger than the Union Leader and just behind that of WMUR (Alexa ratings). I reiterated that the Chair is permitting me to report on this process as I told them that ‘Grok readers have, with comments and emails, let me know that this is an important topic to them as well. I explained that you all let me know that you are involved, via friends and families in this space. You want to know what is happening.

Sidenote: several changes were done to the last meeting’s minutes – I will post when I get the corrected ones. One thing I will say is that they are VERY detailed – a very good job by the recording secretary. The interim report, due at the end of last month, was created by the Chair and passed in. A couple of edits were also needed – I will post when that comes back as well.

What is a bit troubling was the thread running through this was talk of funding streams – always looking for funding and while there were those from the State (DHHS, DCYF) much of it was turning to / begging the Feds for any kinds of monies (grants, appropriations, et al). I made it clear to several that all these Grandparents are doing what American Society has done since its beginning – being their own First Responders. We are doing what is right – Family are the First Responders when trouble hits. It’s just the right thing to do – you just do it. It isn’t really a decision, it is a responsibility that comes with Family to be fulfilled. And I know, in my circumstances, in line with Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations, friends have come to our aid as well for which we are grateful.

Government should always be the last resort – and to be truthful, I am heartened, to a degree, that Government realizes that it does have a part to play in it. I’ve always said that a safety net should be available to those that need it – but that it should never be a hammock into which eternally rest.

OK, off my soapbox for a bit.

The last part of the meeting was reserved for the four workgroups to meet their “workgroup colleagues ” and start to get a handle on what their inputs would be for the final report:

  1. Services – for Grandparents, for children, finding funding streams, and housing issues
  2. Data – identify data needs and collection tools
  3. Healthcare – covering the gaps (e.g., if Grandparents are on SS / Medicare, what to do about the Grandkids? What happens when Grandparents transition from private to Medicare relative to the Grandkids?)
  4. Other – Guardian financial assistance, pre- and post-adoption issues, kinship and the courts, DCYF regulatory regimes

I had signed up for #2 (‘natch!) and #4 but made the decision to attend that Data group. Four of us met (Jennifer, Tracie, Jerry, and I). Unfortunately for me, the two ladies had heard me talk about Data the last meeting. Thus, they both nominated me, with twinkles in their eyes, to be the Chair. After all, I was the IT guy.  In fact, the only IT guy on the Commission.  Sigh…inevitable, I guess.  So I agreed.

The rest of the time was in talking about what was meant by Data (and listed a very few elements back in my previous post)?  I pointed out that we need Data Sources (not a big surprise) that may be the biggest problem due to regulatory restrictions (like HIPA in the healthcare area, FERPA from the educational area, legal / privacy issues from the court / legal domains).  We also talked about Data Consumers where the two known sets would be all these organizations as well as the Grandparents themselves.  Reporting data in, normalizing it, organizing it, and creating reporting out mechanisms both static, dynamic, and ad hoc. Visualization of the data should also be part of this as well.

The biggest part of this, however, is to make sure that the most fundamental question is kept foremost: What information do YOU need to do YOUR job right?  What do you need to guide your strategic plans and tactical operations? What resources will you need? Who is out there to help you help others?

And that’s just for the organizations.  A whole ‘nother set of questions, in the same vein, will be on the flip-side: data for Grandparents: family issues (e.g., see above, workgroups) and “what do *I* need as a Grandparent on saving my Grandchildren (for that’s how we look at it – WE are their first and most important life-ring)? And that single question will results in scores of additional ones.

Lots of investigational work, both across the breadth and depth of this problem domain, will be needed up front to build a proto-knowledgebase of what to consider for the final report’s recommendation. The Data Consumer focus must be kept through this whole process. I joked that this will be a practical application of the course I teach as an adjunct professor: Acquiring Software Requirements.

What I had to keep coming back to was the importance of viewing Data as a foundational “block” that will undergird all other processes involved in this effort. Also, while we can talk about the granular level issues, we also have to keep in mind that our focus must be at, not an implementation level (although I told them that I have ideas about that) but with the focus of what we are supposed to be doing – creating a “Data Structure” denoting what we think should be done in “Phase Two”. We are to give guidance to the Legislature / “second phase-ers” as to what may be needed on the topside for the Consumers, identify possible Data Sources, call out the possible barriers / silos that would make acquiring the data hard to get.

At least, that’s what we talked about. I also dryly note that we were also the last to leave the meeting – and literally were asked to “please turn out the lights when you leave” (heh!).

It will be an interesting time. Again, I ask for our readers to weigh in. I certainly don’t have all the answers and I’m also certain I don’t know all of the problems.  Help me out here – send me your thoughts and anecdotes about the Grandfamilies you know about and the needs you know they have EVEN IF THEY WON’T TELL ANYONE.  You see them, and you can see both the happiness and pain in their eyes, in their movement, and in their demeanors. It ain’t easy – that I know, especially for those caring for Grandkids that have physical or mental issues (or both, which may well be most cases – I know). We tend not to want to let on or want the spotlights put on us – help me help them.

Help me teach the Commission members know that Conservatives are more alert and compassionate in this than what we are painted to be by the Left.  I don’t want this to be partisan because this issue isn’t – but perceptions are there.

And for you IT folks, past and present? Consider the idea of being “deputized” if you would so think to wish to advise / help out in this.  It is time to get to work and I’m happy to take in all advice you can give.

To be continued. And thank you for your patience in this long post.