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A Rhode Island Grandmother Reaches Out to Help Other Grandparents Affected by Opioid Crisis
By Tonya Tavares, Technology Transfer Specialist, VT, ME, NH, RI, CT, MA
A Rhode Island grandmother, whose daughter has an opioid use disorder, is now raising her grandchild
and requested assistance from the STR-TA in creating a program for other grandparents facing similar
She requested technical assistance in: (1) being linked with services and network supports in the local
community to help raise awareness of her program and support services, including information about
existing services (i.e. legal, child welfare, insurance, housing, mental/behavioral health support, funding
opportunities for grandparents, etc.); (2) being introduced to individuals with expertise to provide
education to grandparents and community organizations, and to develop content where appropriate
(i.e. trauma-informed care, stigma training, and addiction 101), with the potential for establishing a
train-the-trainer model where interested people involved in the project could provide training support
throughout the community.
The grandmother found navigating state agencies and legal aspects of caring for a grandchild extremely
challenging. Few resources were available to guide her through myriad challenges inherent when a
grandparent is suddenly thrust into caring for a grandchild. “I was in a very desperate situation and
there wasn’t a lot of resources out there. There are so many intricacies” and no single place to find
answers. "I became my own advocate."
While the majority of training and program content is in place, the grandmother needed assistance with
synthesizing information and ensuring up-to date and evidence-based practices are reflected in content.
She also needed help developing topic areas, identifying appropriate presenters, and developing a plan
on how to implement.
Eventually, she has plans to create a nonprofit organization, Grands Flourish, to give grandparents in
Rhode Island the guidance they need when facing a similar situation. Her experiences have inspired her
to help others so that in the future, grandparents will have a clear guide on what steps they need to
consider. “I remember how horrendous it was for me,” she says. But that experience has created the
drive to create this program. With the guidance of the STR-TA technology transfer specialist, they were
able to identify an employee of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental
Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) who had similar experiences as the grandmother; she has become an
engaged partner, helping us to further develop a network and identify potential key stakeholders at the
Goals for the program included building the infrastructure to initiate a 12-week pilot program with 10-
15 grandparents. The ideal outcomes would be to: identify a trainer to help further develop and refine
existing program materials and deliver training to grandparents and community agencies; establish an
evaluation plan; and get the program up and running so that there can ultimately be a grandparents’
network hub to help them to feel and be less isolated, have resource exchange, and connected to
When the grandmother initially contacted STR-TA, her TTS went into immediate action. This is what was
- Contacted Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Task Force in Massachusetts to get their lessons
learned and advice on setting up an annual meeting.
- Linked her to a 501C3 services team, which helped her put everything in place to apply for
nonprofit status. The application was submitted the end of October.
- With STR-TA funding, they have initiated the development of a website, which the grandmother
will take over once trained. A site map has already been developed for the website.
- Connected her to experts in grant writing to assist her when the time comes to start applying for
federal and state grants.
- Helped flesh out a 12-week pilot program that includes working with other grandparents in