Kinship Kare of Northern Arizona (KKONA)

Support Increased Economic Opportunities and Improved Quality of Life in Rural America
Research Year: 
2003
Issue: 

According to the 2000 census Arizona has a 73.8 percent increase in grandparent-headed households. In Coconino County there are at least 1,700 grandparent-headed households. Grandparents and other relatives inherit the children of families in crisis. Anger and alienation among family members inhibits cooperation that would be in the children's best interest when they are absorbed into grandparents' households. A grandparent who assumes the care of grandchildren has multiple demands that cause stress and unnecessary suffering from lack of resources and knowledge in navigating children's social and health services, schools and legal system.

The majority of grandparents raising grandchildren have not had a dependent child in their household for ten years or more. They may feel that they are failures because their children are not able to raise their own children. As a result of those feelings, grandparents are reluctant to seek the resources and services they desperately need. Many grandparents feel isolated because of the stigma of parenting for incapable or irresponsible parents. Their alienation from irresponsible family members prevents them from sharing decision making and support in caring for grandchildren. Grandparents may have health issues of their own, or develop them in caring for more family members. Grandchildren may have compromised health and learning issues resulting from in utero addiction. Many of these children do not have health insurance when the grandparents take over their care.

Description of Action: 

Coconino Cooperative Extension convened grandparents and local agencies in 2002 to discuss issues and solutions for grandparents raising grandchildren. As a result of this meeting, Coconino County Extension, in collaboration with Northern Arizona Gerontology Association formed a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren and established an ethnically diverse 14-member advisory committee, Kinship Kare of Northern Arizona (KKONA), to identify critical needs and develop a vision to provide better services for kin caregivers in Northern Arizona. KONA, a grassroots collaboration facilitated by Coconino Cooperative Extension, KKONA was designed to alleviate the trauma and suffering of members of grandparent headed households by offering support, including parenting skill building, advocacy, legal assistance, inforamtion and referral, and communication and mediation training. The remedy is education for all family members regarding the consequences to children.

KKONA offers day and evening support groups, mentor programs, an annual conference, workshops, and useful data, research and best practices for successful grandparenting. It encourages grandparent families to become strong voices in the community. Outreach workshops include legal advice, child development and strengthening grandparents' marriages.

In Coconino county the KKONA collaboration has promoted the positive assets of grandparents raising grandchildren to that grandparents are more willing to ask for necessary resources. A panel of adults and youth who had already or currently were being raised by grandparents spoke about the assets of being raised in their grandparents' home. That panel inspired grandparents to take action and consider the importance of reconnecting with their grandchildren's parents.

KKONA's participating grandparents range in age from the 40s through 70s. These grandparents break the stereotype because many are still working and struggling with issues of childcare and school-age learning disabilities. Nationally, 42 percent of grandparents are responsible for raising grandchildren; the average in Coconino County is 55 percent, or 10 percent above the state rate.

Impact: 

Kinship Kare of Northern Arizona has reached hundreds of grandparents and receives weekly requests for more help from throughout Northern Arizona. The local collaboration which began with 14 interested agencies and grandparents has grown to include lawyers, mental health providers and stronger grandparent voices:

"I don't know what I would have done without the support from KKONA. Having just moved to Flagstaff with my 5-year-old grandson, I had no one to turn to and felt alone and intimidated by the school system. During the first support group I attended, the other grandparents gave me the ideas and the confidence to stand up for myself and my grandson." –a grandmother

"I am so happy that an organization like KKONA exists because I had to raise my three grandchildren alone for the past 12 years. I wish something like this had been available for me in the past. I will be a partner with your organization because what you do is so important." –a grandfather

A follow-up telephone interview with 87 percent of the KKONA Conference attendees in Northern Arizona showed that the 59 attendees had shared the information they learned with 330 additional individuals. Twenty-four percent of the grandparents attending the conference noted that the conference helped their relationships with their spouses, deepening the other grandparent's role to support and parent the grandchildren. Among the agency presenters at the conference, 77 percent said the conference benefited their organizations.

As awareness of grandparents raising grandchildren increases, KKONA finds that agencies are more willing to provide services to them. For example, data on GRG households that was shared with local superior court judges resulted in presentations by the judges to the grandparents about preparing for court hearings.

Funding Agencies: 

City of Flagstaff–bridge funding; Community Foundation; Gifts and conferences ; Sabbatical savings and grant buy-outs funded nominal FTE

Conact Name: 
Beth Tucker
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

Arizona Cooperative Extension, Coconino Office

2304 N. 3rd Street

Flagstaff, AZ 86004-3605

(928) 774-1868 office (928) 774-1860 fax