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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winners: Massachusetts

Best Practice: GrandFamilies House

Unique Program Assists Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Boston, Massachusetts.
The GrandFamilies House in Massachusetts is the first housing development in the country to serve the physical and economical needs of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren without any assistance from the parents. The nonprofit group Boston Aging Concerns, Young and Old United, Inc. (BACYOU) and several supporting nonprofit partners formed the GrandFamilies House.

A study in Boston revealed that a growing number of elderly citizens who were thought to be living by
themselves were actually supporting children full-time. In response to the study, BACYOU conducted
a survey of 50 grandparent-headed households. Interviews with the grandparents, overwhelmingly African-American women ranging from 50 to 86 years old, showed significant health problems and low family income (typically $5,000 to $15,000). The survey indicated that the women were raising their grandchildren because of the impacts of substance abuse, death, incarceration, AIDS and other illnesses, or immaturity on the part of the parents.

Between 1980 and 1990, the number of children being raised by grandparents rose by 44 percent. By 1996, there were approximately 2.1 million young people being raised exclusively by their grandparents or other relatives. BACYOU estimates that in Boston there are approximately 10,000 such cases.

To assist the needs of these households, the GrandFamilies House offers 26 units of two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments. The YWCA, a program partner, offers an on-site Generations Learning Together program. This program provides seniors and their families with a pre-school, an after-school and a computer learning center. All facilities are equipped with innovations that involve grandparents in their grandchildren’s learning experience such as a special software program called Encarta Africana which is an interactive computer encyclopedia from the orientation of African-American history.

GrandFamilies House is beneficial to the community because it provides a stable and safe environment for its residents. “As a society, we often focus on negative things—crime, drugs, teenage pregnancies,” says Janet Zandt, executive director of GrandFamilies House. “What we have done is to focus our attention on the elderly who took in these children who were left behind and are bringing families together.”

The success of the GrandFamilies project was accomplished through the use of partnerships between
providers, educators, funders and government agencies. The Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development co-developed the GrandFamilies project and the YMCA offers an on-site Generations Learning Together program. BACYOU has identified a set of needs in a growing population segment and developed a program that addresses the basic concerns of housing, education, social services, day care and health for these families. Without this help, the families would spend too much of their limited incomes on shelter, lack a social network to depend on for support, have less access to educational services and ultimately raise their grandchildren in isolation, potentially creating new cycles of intergenerational poverty.

The challenge of this project was to create housing that supports the needs of this special type of family—one with children and elders. To overcome this challenge, special features were built to accommodate both the elders and their grandchildren. This includes guardrails in bathrooms, ramps, and elevators. Child protective devices were installed in the homes to avoid potential problems. The goal was to make the environment as friendly and convenient as possible for the elders to watch the children.
Contact: Janet Zandt, Phone: (617) 266-2257
Tracking Number: 2656
Winning Category: Geographic and Program (Community Builder)

Best Practice: Lead-Safe Cambridge Program

Lead Hazard Control Program Provides a Variety of Services to At-Risk Families

Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lead-Safe Cambridge’s (LSC) small staff has had a large impact on controlling the lead hazard among low- and very-low income residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Over a three-year period, the percentage of area children with dangerous levels of lead in their blood dropped from 10 percent of all children screened in 1995 to 1.6 percent in 1998. Primary prevention measures through home visits, outreach activities, interactions with property owners and contractors, and even educational puppet shows at elementary schools have contributed to the decrease.

Photo of recipients receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Recipients (c) receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

The City of Cambridge Community Development Department partnered with the Cambridge Hospital system to develop the LSC in 1994 as a comprehensive lead paint abatement and poisoning prevention program. LSC receives funding from HUD as a lead hazard control grantee. The LSC staff works in the most at-risk Cambridge neighborhoods that have aged and often dilapidated housing. The goal is to prevent childhood lead poisoning and create affordable lead-safe housing. To date, LSC has deleaded more than 220 affordable housing units. Services include financial and technical assistance, lead inspections, construction oversight, temporary tenant relocation, blood lead testing, patient education, home visits, soil lead testing and control, and community outreach and education.

Although some of the work is responsive to office walk-ins, phone calls and referrals, much is proactive, including home visits, public education and development of partnerships. Partnerships, such as one with Just-A-Start, a local nonprofit providing funding and technical assistance for rehabilitation work, have allowed Lead-Safe Cambridge to help owners renovate multifamily properties needing comprehensive lead hazard control.

LSC’s original outreach strategy underestimated the need for services. With initial plans for meetings, mailings, press releases and some outreach to schools, LSC staff found that outreach needs surpassed original expectations. Finding it difficult to get people to attend an event strictly about lead poisoning prevention, LSC participated in existing events that are broader than lead poisoning prevention, such as Community Baby Shower or Spring Home Fair.

Through state funding of an outreach coordinator position, new enrollees and the visibility of the program have grown considerably. Staff members worked with the state legislature to declare a Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which included LSC-sponsored events such as a kick-off, workshops, a finale at a local mall, and a “Lead Awareness Gallery” of posters and interactive exhibits that taught children from area day camps about the dangers of lead.

Local outreach activities include the following:

  • Property owner workshops on a pilot program to reduce lead in soil
  • Lead-hazard awareness training during classes for first-time homebuyers
  • Large displays in supermarkets, hardware stores, YMCAs, shopping malls and other venues
  • Advertisements displayed on public transportation targeted at do-it-yourselfers
  • Ads in movie theaters targeted at parents and property owners
  • Presentations in kindergarten and first-grade classes using a Sesame Street video on lead education, a sing-along with Elmo and educational materials for children to take home to parents
  • A video in Portuguese
  • Education sessions during English as a Second Language classes and birthing classes

The staff also distributes brochures on prevention of lead poisoning, including a “Sneaky Poison” pamphlet that LSC developed and adapted for all literacy levels. In addition to English, all brochures are translated into the area’s prevalent languages—Portuguese, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

Press coverage and displays in the windows of local hardware stores helped LSC convey the lead awareness message to more than 20,000 residents. LSC also relies on its website at http:www.ci.cambridge.ma.us~LeadSafe/ to educate the public.

Contact: Peggy Hegarty-Steck, Phone: (617) 349-6010
Tracking Number: 298
Winning Category: Program (Office of Lead Hazard Control)


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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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