Starting Point: Children abandoned or lost from incarcerated, addicted and dead parents
Organizing Strategy: Willingness, even enthusiasm of grandparents to assume responsibility if receiving some support
Tools: Community Renewal Team
Outcomes: Coherent housing development creating neighborhood and community for kids, and significant governmental savings as no longer necessary for children to become wards of the state
Generations is a beautiful, affordable townhouse community with support for grandfamilies
Searching for an affordable community to raise your grandchildren? Affordable multi-bedroom townhouses for grandparents with legal custody of their grandchildren are available on the CRT Generations campus. Apartments are located at 35 Clark Street in Hartford. Income limits apply. Staff speaks English and Spanish.
CRT Generations Program Receives National Platinum Award in Social Work
Dorland Health Group Selected Leading Case Management Programs, Initiatives in 23 Categories
HARTFORD— Just in time for Mother’s Day, Community Renewal Team’s (CRT) residential program for grandparents raising grandchildren has walked away with top honors in a national competition concerning excellence in case management. Generations, a campus for seniors and grandparents raising grandchildren in Northeast Hartford, won the Case in Point Platinum Award for Social Work on May 9 at a luncheon held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
On hand to accept the award, were Carmen Stanford, Program Manager of Generations since the doors were opened in 2006, and Theresa Nicholson, CRT’s Assistant Vice President for Behavioral Health.
“This is a tremendous honor for our Generations Campus because it showcases our multidimensional case management model that allows for economically disadvantaged grandparents to thrive in the local community and to empower themselves to become self-sufficient,” Nicholson said. “And to be honored among top-tier individuals and organizations from the medical field is a testament to our focus on the health and well-being of Generations families tailored as specifically as possible to their needs.”
The Third Annual Platinum Awards program, organized by the media publisher Dorland Health Group, recognized the most successful case management and care coordination programs and individuals working to improve the U.S. healthcare system in a variety of ways. The Generations Social Work Award was one of 23 case management categories honored—ranging from Managed Care Programs to Military Case Management.
“We are so proud to receive this on behalf of the Generations Campus and the rest of CRT because it validates the impact we have in delivering quality and dedicated case management that goes beyond expectations,” said CRT President and CEO Lena Rodriguez. “This recognition on the national level is also a chance to share the innovative ways we have been able to meet the challenging issues of the day with innovative programs that evolve to meet the needs of our families.”
In addition to the award for the Generations program, CRT received an Honorable Mention as a finalist in the Wellness/ Prevention category for the agency-wide Employee Wellness Program implemented by CRT’s human resources. Initiatives including stress-reduction days, walking programs, inoculations and internal health marketing campaigns earned high marks by award judges in the selection process.
The Generations Campus is one the area’s first and largest housing developments of its kind which has led to its national recognition since opening its doors. In 2008, the Affordable Housing Finance Magazine honored the development with its Best Affordable Housing Development for Families Award.
Generations provides affordable rental housing for seniors and grandfamilies—grandparents raising their grandchildren. It features 40 apartments in two sections, individual townhouses for grandparents raising grandchildren and private units for seniors.
The Generations model aims to provide a safe and supportive community where grandparents will be able to shoulder the responsibilities of successfully raising a second generation of children. For grandchildren, it provides a safe, stable environment and encourages the development of a strong support system in the community and increased emotional and psychological well-being. Case Management, recreation and other programming is offered on-site for grandparents with legal custody of their grandchildren.
Click here to see a mini-documentary produced by AARP entitled Generations of Love.
Community Renewal Team, Inc. is the designated Community Action Agency for Middlesex and Hartford Counties and is the largest non-profit provider of human services in Connecticut. The agency’s mission is Preparing Our Community to Meet Life’s Challenges. The mission is achieved each day by helping people and families become self-sufficient while making sure basic needs are met. CRT’s programs include Head Start, Meals on Wheels, energy assistance, supportive housing and shelters, and many others, serving people in more than 60 cities and towns in both our core catchment area and throughout Connecticut. www.crtct.org
Raising Their Profile
Grandparents As Parents
Laura McCrae will be crying when Barack Obama is inaugurated as the nation’s 44th president.She feels a connection to him that surpasses their shared status as children of African American and white parents. McCrae is raising her grandchildren, just as Obama’s grandmother raised him. She feels validated, and so do her two granddaughters, who have suffered taunts from schoolmates.
McCrae, 45, has a lot of company. She lives in a community built for grandparents raising children in a North End neighborhood bordered by Clark, Capen and Barbour streets.
The development, called Generations, is a small piece of an answer to a growing issue in Hartford and other communities. The capital city has 2,157 children being raised in grandparent-headed households. Statewide, the number is 39,797, often because the children’s parents are ill, dead, incarcerated, drug-addicted or troubled in some other way.
At Generations, the formula relies heavily on adapting and forming a community and – in the complex itself – using an old building, the former St. Michael’s School, which the city no longer needed. The newly built, three-story town houses are home to 24 families headed by grandparents – including McCrae.
“It’s good to be around other adults who are going through what I’m going through,” McCrae said.
McCrae was able to return to college this fall because the nonprofit organization that built and supports the development, Community Renewal Team, provides free child care in an activity center on campus. After nearly 10 years of raising her two granddaughters and son almost single-handedly, she now has a built-in support network right outside her door.
And now, her child rearing is part of the national political culture. Barack Obama was largely raised by his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, whose memorial service was last week, and it appears that Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson, will accompany the family to the White House.
All of this makes it harder for society to marginalize grandparents raising grandchildren, the people at Generations say.
“With this, it says, ‘Yes, things do happen in life, and families step in and take care of their kids. They turn out to be OK,’ ” said Carmen Stanford, program manager. “Because they are minorities in Hartford, the stereotype immediately comes to mind that their kids are in jail. … With Obama winning and being black at the same time, it brings another light that the black family can succeed.”
A COMMUNITY APART
On a typical Thursday night before the weather turned, adults sat on their second-story decks chatting with friends and neighbors, watching over the activity.
For all of the grandparents – grandmothers, mostly – the idea is to generate enough support to break the cycle of poverty and to create a community of people helping each other. Their porches face a back courtyard and parking area where children dig in a sand pit, throw a ball on the grass and ride bikes in the parking lot.
The town houses are part of a campus that includes the former St. Michael’s School, built in 1927. It’s also the former city-owned Clark Street School and the former Artists Collective. CRT bought the building and land from the city for $1 and preserved the brick building’s historical integrity with architectural services from Paul B. Bailey and a historian.
The grandparents know about the crime occurring right outside their block, they said, but they feel insulated from it through the physical separation of the campus and through their vibrant community.
One grandmother moved in without any furniture, dishes or other essentials, Stanford said. With the help of donations from other residents, her home is fully furnished.
And when a teenage boy died in a car crash, the other grandparents took care of his grandmother’s three granddaughters and brought her food. CRT staff also arranged for grief counseling for the family and friends of the boy.
When the children are not playing outside, they’re often in the community center on the bottom floor of the former school. An activity room for young children includes computers, tables, arts and crafts supplies, books and games. The teen room is packed with a PlayStation, a Wii, a pool table, pingpong table, air hockey, foosball, a dart board and a TV.
The center hosts classes on parenting and skills such as sewing. Social workers and case managers help grandparents navigate everything from job searches and college applications to coordinating educational services for their special needs children and grandchildren.
For example, CRT staff helped McCrae enroll in Springfield College to finish her bachelor’s degree in sociology. She hopes to work as a caseworker helping other grandparents when she completes her degree.
“I never thought about going back to school until I came here,” she said.