Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Close to the Seat of Power

My have feet have hardly touched the ground since I last posted. I have been in Arizona meeting with developers and scoping out a site for a video shoot, in Iowa speaking at a conference, and in California helping to think through a project to build new, livable, multigenerational communities.

And in between, I moderated GU’s own Hill briefing on subsidized guardianship! Here’s a picture of our terrific panel – thanks to Senators Clinton and Snowe we were in the Capitol Building in a room right by the Senate Chamber.

The photo was taken by Mike Patterson – thanks Mike! Our three speakers, Leslie Cohen (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Amy Miller (Juvenile Rights Project Inc) and Charlotte Price are along the back. Charlotte’s standing next to her husband, Glenn, and their grandchildren are standing in front with me. It was fantastic to hear Charlotte’s moving story – you can read it along with a host of others, here.

If you want more detail, all the materials are available online. And we even have an audio file of the meeting – I’ll warn you in advance it’s a whopping 58MB – if you want to experience the whole thing! E-mail if you’d like a copy.

My visit to California was also really inspiring. It’s a great example of how we’re moving forward as a society and (I hope) learning to plan for a multigenerational future. I was speaking with a team who are working together to plan for some new, truly livable communities – and that means including people from every generation. This isn’t the kind of thing that happens overnight – in fact it’s going to take them 20 years! It’s very exciting to be in at the beginning of such a great project.

Let me know what you think. What do you think planners and developers should consider when they want to build multigenerational communities?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On Air

I had the very great pleasure of joining Mark Steiner of WYPR in Baltimore for his flagship public affairs program yesterday. The show should be available in his archive soon. We talked about grandfamilies – specifically grandparents raising grandchildren. 2.4 million children are being raised solely by their grandparents or other relatives. These grandparents are keeping families together and deserve our full support. Dr. Fred Strieder, who directs Baltimore's Family Connections, and two wonderful grandmothers from his program were featured on the show. They all did a terrific job of shedding light on the sacrifices grandparent caregivers make and the love they surround their grandchildren with. It was an honor to be on the show and a privilege to share the microphones with some wonderful partners.

While I was on my way to Baltimore, Jaia was speaking at a conference on subsidized guardianship and other help for grandparents raising grandchildren in Hartford, CT, co-sponsored by GU, AARP Connecticut and the Connecticut Commission on Children. The conference was incredibly well attended, and well organized by AARP Connecticut. This great preview in the Hartford Courant also meant that some extra relative caregivers showed up on the day to learn more and make those all important connections with others in similar situations.

Let us know if you are holding an intergenerational event, and I’ll mention it in our electronic newsletter or in this blog!

Monday, November 27, 2006

After the Election

I hope you’ve all had a chance to digest the mid-term election results. In case you missed it (!) NPR has a great election special. I know some people are already looking past the “lame duck” session to next year, when the 110th Congress is sworn in. But there’s still a lot of work to be done in the 109th!

During the “lame duck” session, there are tax-reliefs to extend and programs to pay for. It’s looking likely that Congress will pass a short continuing resolution, allowing federal programs to continue through the holiday season. The continuing resolutions are vital: without them, federal program funding would simply stop. (It’s not likely to happen. No-one wants to see families go without during the holiday season.) The so-called tax extenders are also important, although they’ve gotten less press coverage than the spending measures: they include the deductibility of state and local sales taxes, college tuition and fees, and classroom supplies.

While the 109th Congress winds down, we need to thank some of our good friends – friends like Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, who lost his seat November 7th. Senator DeWine has been an incredible supporter of children and grandfamilies, and we’ll miss him and his terrific aide Karla Carpenter. He was, along with Senators Kennedy, Mikulski and Jeffords, one of the key reasons grandfamilies are included in the National Family Caregiver Support Program. I wish him, and his nine grandchildren, all the very best for the future. I’d also like to wish Senator Jim Jeffords the very best: he is retiring from the United States Congress in which he served Vermont for 32 years, 14 in the House and 18 in the Senate.

We look forward to welcoming some new friends, as well as welcoming longtime friends to new roles, when Congress reconvenes in January. I was delighted to read in the Washington Post that Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was more concerned about the birth of her sixth grandchild, than a congratulatory call from the White House. Congratulations also go to Senator Kent Conrad, who was raised by his grandparents, and has been selected to chair the Senate Budget Committee.

This was a very close election in many districts. One race was won by only 91 votes. It shows how important it is that we all let our voices be heard and vote. What do you think?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Land Down Under

G’day mates! Several of us at GU have just returned to the states after 5 days in beautiful Melbourne Australia attending the International Consortium for Intergenerational Programmes (ICIP) 2006 conference. It was a terrific event that got us more excited than kangaroo s up a tree!

First off I am honored to have be en elected and to serve as the ICIP Chair for the next four years. I know that everyone on the ICIP management committee looks forward to setting an agenda that will continue to strengthen the international presence of intergenerational programs. Of course we can’t do it with you. Please visit ICIP online at ( to download the latest newsletter, learn about upcoming global, regional, and national conferences, and show your support by becoming a member and sharing articles in future newsletters .

Thanks to the conference sponsors , in particular Susan Feldman for her outstanding leadership, and those who volunteered their time to make this event go so well. I also want to express my gratitude to everyone who presented and attended the conference , especially those that traveled from all over the globe to be there. I’m proud to report that we had representatives from a dozen nations. Each country brought their unique approach to developing and sustaining intergenerational programs.

What is happening where you live? Is there a program that builds bridges between cultures or across borders? Tell me about it!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Foster Care

An ABC/Time magazine poll reveals substantial concern for state foster care systems and public support for reforms to the system. According to the poll, nearly half of Americans feel the system isn’t doing enough for the vulnerable children living in foster care. Generations United and other groups have highlighted the fact that many children in foster are being taken care of by grandparents and relatives but these families don’t have the financial and legal support that other foster care families get. The need for policies like subsidized guardianships for these caregivers could help improve the lives of the more than 20,000 children who live with grandparents and other relatives in foster care.

There are currently more than 500,000 children in our nation’s foster care system. About a quarter of these children live with relative caregivers in grandfamilies. For some of these children, subsidized guardianship could be the only viable option for exiting the system. This option permanently places a child with a grandparent or other relative who can provide a positive and nurturing home environment and becomes the legal guardian. At the same time, the guardian receives financial resources, just as foster families do, that make it possible to provide for the child’s basic needs. In its landmark report, Fostering the Future, the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care recommended that federal guardianship assistance be provided “to all children who leave foster care to live with a permanent legal guardian.”

More than a quarter of the children and youth in foster care are being raised by relatives. For these kids the availability of subsidized guardianship could mean the difference between a safe permanent home and languishing for years in the system.

GU recently released a report titled Every Child Deserves a Loving Home, which provides state by state data on the number of children living in relative foster care. The first of its kind report is available at The report explains that allowing states to use federal Title IV-E foster care funds for subsidized guardianship would make permanent homes possible for thousands of children in need across the U.S.

GU will be co-sponsoring a Capitol Hill briefing on June 8th at 10:00a.m. around one of the biggest reasons for children having to be raised by relatives—substance abuse. The briefing, being held in room 138 of the Dirkson Senate Office Building will focus specifically on the impact of methamphetamines on foster care and highlight recommendations for improving the child welfare system.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Older Americans Month

Older Americans Month is coming up quickly. It's also Foster Care Month so it's a great time to bring attention to the important role older adults play in the lives of young people whether as primary caregivers, mentors or simply good friends, older adults can provide important connections for young people as they grow to adulthood.

The third week of May is also Intergenerational Week founded by Fred Ramstedt more than 15 years ago. What will you be doing to celebrate and bring attention to the important connection between young and old?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Boomers: The Real Greatest Generation?

The Washington Post published a piece on February 19th titled Boomers: The Real Greatest Generation. What follows is a letter I wrote to The Washington Post in response to this piece. What do you think?

I take offense to Leonard Steinhorn’s recent opinion piece titled Boomers: The Real Greatest Generation. As the Executive Director of an organization whose mission is to ‘create a world that values all generations’ I feel this type of intergenerational warfare is counterproductive. We are all different pieces to a puzzle that is the greatest generation.
It is up to older adults to provide the care and guidance to encourage young people to change the world. The children and youth in turn provide the inspiration to the seniors to keep fighting the good fight and to not give up hope.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” A case for the Greatest Generation could certainly be made for Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and the other revolutionaries. Don’t get me wrong, Woodstock was cool, but the Bill of Rights is pretty high on the list.

Mr. Steinhorn’s stereotype of the World War II and the Korean Conflict generation’s as being racist and homophobic is unfair. In addition to the brave and important work they did in their youth, this generation has committed tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time with a diverse population of children and youth in schools and community centers all across America. There are many in this age bracket who continue to work to make the world a better place despite their advancing age.

The boomers will pick up this benevolent torch and continue with what has been an outstanding contribution to our society as all 80 million strong begin to leave the traditional workforce. There is a stereotype of the Boomers as having sold out to corporate America following the dawn at Woodstock. It is up to them to inspire young people with the skills learned from Martin Luther King, JR., the marches on Washington, and the moon landing. Who knows? You may even learn something about your own prejudices in the process.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Gilbert seniors demand center of their own

You may have read the article we linked to in Generations This Week (you can also click on the headline directly above) about the Gilbert, Arizona seniors who are requesting a senior center of their own - no children allowed. While we agree that seniors deserve private time, Generations United opposes the idea of spending tax dollars to segregate the generations in publicy-owned spaces.

There are numerous alternatives to the "all or nothing" approach, including scheduling time slots for age-specific activities or designating "age zones" within the structure. We challenge persons opposed to these ideas to think back to their childhoods and remember the influence some adult had on their upbringing. It would be a shame for young people to miss out on the joy, experience, and wisdom that seniors have to share. Perhaps more worrisome, for those same young people to develop negative attitudes about the aging process.

We encourage the residents of Gilbert to engage in dialogue about what they want their community to look like. GU is a resource to towns like Gilbert across our country who grapple with these issues. Our How-to Guide on Starting and Strengthening Intergenerational Shared Site Programs is a publication that can help inform the dialogue.

Stay tuned and let's find out what Gilbert decides!

Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK Jr Holiday

Extending wishes for a meaningful Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. In the tradition of Dr. King, we dream of and strive to help create a world that values and engages all generations.