Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

White House Grandma

The nation’s incoming first family sets a precedent in so many ways. I appreciate how the energy of young people helped Obama get to where he is today, but let’s not forget older adults have nurtured President-elect Barack Obama throughout his life as well. Obama’s late maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, whom he affectionately called "Toot," deeply impacted his life while helping to raise him in Hawaii. And now Marian Robinson, grandmother to Barack and Michelle Obama's children, may move into the White House with her daughter and son-in-law. The Washington Post reported this week that the Obamas are busy touring D.C. schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marian Robinson, who stepped in when her daughter and son-in-law were campaigning, driving her granddaughters to and from play dates, dance, and piano lessons, has some say in their important decision.

Multigenerational households happen for many reasons, some by choice, some by necessity. The Obamas serve as an example of choosing to live under one roof. Having cared for her grandchildren as her daughter and son-in-law’s schedules filled up, why, once the race was over, would she not want to remain deeply involved with the girls and join in the family’s D.C. move? As the latest Census reported, the number of parents under 65 in multigenerational households increased by 75%, while those 65 and older rose 62%. Additionally, the data shows a 40% increase in the number of other live-in relatives, such as the head of household's mother-in-law or father-in-law to 6.8 million. You can download GU’s multigenerational household fact sheet by clicking here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

National Adoption Day

Tomorrow – Saturday, November 15 – is National Adoption Day. National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the 129,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. When I hear about the thousands of children waiting for stability and a loving family as they wait in foster care, I’m again thankful for the passage of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The Act will help thousands of children and youth by promoting permanent families for children in foster care through relative guardianship and adoption and helping with access to other supportive services for grandparent- and other relative- headed families. The bill will also do such things as extend federal support for youth to age 21 and help keep brothers and sisters together. To learn more about National Adoption Day, go to To find out the latest on Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, go to GU’s special public policy web page at

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hockey Star Heads Home to be with Grandfather

It’s not just politicians like Barack Obama that are taking some time out to visit with their ailing grandparents. Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitols, last year’s most valuable player in the National Hockey League left the team yesterday so that he could fly home to Moscow to be with his grandfather, Nikolay Kabayev. Ovechkin’s grandfather helped care for him when he was young and it’s touching to hear that he wants to be there beside him now that he is ill.

Ovechkin has played in a remarkable 203 straight games for the Capitols (something I can really appreciate as the spouse of a hockey enthusiast). So while Capitols missed Ovechkin on the ice at last night’s game, I’m sure everyone understood how important it was for him to be with his grandfather. At Generations United we send our sympathies to Ovechkin and his family during this difficult time

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Response to Samuelson

In yesterday’s Washington Post Robert Samuelson addressed a memo to young voters and asked them to get angry because they are supposedly being duped by an alliance of senior voters and the two presidential campaigns in an effort to ignore them and their issues. Samuelson has long been banging the drum for entitlement and budget reform, and he often raises legitimate questions, but his solutions and tactics are misplaced and wrongheaded.

There’s a good reason why young voters aren’t angry with seniors (much to Samuelson’s dismay); after all, they care about their own parents and grandparents and they understand that they too will age. Further, he narrowly lays the blame of the budget deficit on older adults. He omits the cost of tax expenditures, bail outs, two wars, and the inefficiencies in our health system.

Older Americans do care about youth and how they will leave the country for them. It’s the reason we’ve seen such an up rise in senior civic engagement, especially with children and youth. GU’s Seniors4Kids is a perfect example of elders selflessly advocating for a brighter beginning for a younger generation. If you have a moment, please leave a comment on the Washington Post and remind Samuelson that we are all in this together, both young and old and the only way to solve our challenges, which are many, is to work together. Click here for the article and here to leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

In Honor of a Grandmother

Last night on Anderson Cooper there was one really poignant moment when Joe Madison, a radio host, was making a point about something else and he stopped in the middle of what he was saying and added:

“And I'd like to say about grandparents. I was reared by Betty Stone and Jim Stone, my grandparents. And Barack Obama has no choice; he has to go to his grandmother's side. I think it's a smart thing to do. If he didn't, he'd probably regret it the rest of his life.”

Indeed. Having just lost my father, I cherish the time this summer when I put my life on hold and went to be with him. I would not have missed the last days with my last parent for anything.

And we know how important Senator Obama’s grandmother is to him. When he accepted the nomination he said...”And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman.

She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight and that tonight is her night, as well.”

At Generations United we salute the Senator’s decision to take time away from his most important race to acknowledge what is truly most important...the love and sacrifice of a grandmother who was there when he needed her.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

President Signs Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008

I am excited to hear that yesterday afternoon President Bush signed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. This is a wonderful accomplishment!

Passing legislation is never easy and this was no exception. A very special thank you to all the grandparent and other relative caregivers and children who shared their stories with lawmakers and staff. Also, thank you to our amazing policy team for their excellent work in particular, Jaia Peterson Lent and Terence Kane.

Please stay tuned to our website for more information about all the benefits of the new law and how you can help implement it in your state and community.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Landmark Bill for Grandfamilies Passes Congress

I am thrilled to share with you some exciting news. Yesterday, the United States Senate unanimously passed the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The bill now goes to the President for his signature. The Act will help thousands of children and youth by promoting permanent families for children in foster care through relative guardianship and adoption and helping with access to other supportive services for grandparent-and other relative-headed families.

The bill is the most significant federal recognition to date of the contribution grandparents and other relatives make in raising our nation’s children. The Senate and House deserve credit for taking this groundbreaking and bi-partisan action: one that dramatically increases the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of children and their families. You can click here for a full summary.

Thank you to everyone for all their hard work in making calls, writing letters, and visiting with their legislators to pass this bill through Congress. Your stories brought this issue to life for your Members of Congress and inspired them to act.

In addition to your hard work, there are a number of legislators who deserve our gratitude. Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Representatives Danny K. Davis (D-IL) and Timothy Johnson (R-IL) were early and steadfast champions of legislation to support grandfamilies with the first introduction of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act over four years ago, many provisions of which were included in this final bill. Their consistent advocacy combined with the strong leadership of Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee leaders Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL) made this landmark legislation a reality.

This was truly a team effort from everyone and was many years in the making. I can't wait for the President to sign the bill into law and starting the celebrations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Step Up for Kids Day!

Yesterday we celebrated “Step Up for Kids Day” with its sponsor, Every Child Matters, and a number of other national organizations who advocate on behalf of America’s children. The Step Up for Kids campaign was launched at the National Press Club here in Washington, DC. Other Step Up for Kids events took place throughout the country, including in Kentucky and New York where our own Seniors4Kids advocates showed their support for policies that promote the wellbeing of our nation’s children.

There are many grim statistics on the rates of child abuse and neglect, the number of children who have no health insurance, live in poverty, and who don’t have access to quality education and child care programs that are so critical for healthy growth and development. Americans care about these issues, so the purpose of the Step Up for Kids campaign is to mobilize advocates, citizens, mothers, fathers, and grandparents to express their support for policies that recognize early investments in children lead to numerous benefits down the road, including stable families, economic productivity and security, and ongoing physical and emotional health. Next year, a new Administration and new Congress will have a real opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to our nation’s children by building on efforts already underway, such as the Improved Adoption Incentives Act, which will help children join permanent families.

As renowned pediatrician and children’s advocate Dr. T. Berry Brazelton said in his remarks at the National Press Club, we must urge lawmakers to make these early investments in America’s children and their families because “only then will we truly gain control of our nation’s destiny.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Intergenerational Themes Championed at the Senate Finance Committee

Earlier today the Senate Finance Committee passed two historic bills out of committee, the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act and the Elder Justice Act. The bills are a testament to the value of intergenerational cooperation and public policy.

Chairman Baucus began the markup by quoting Hubert Humphrey, “The moral test of government is how the government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life – the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” By battling elder abuse and finding permanent homes for children, the Senate Finance Committee passed that intergenerational test with flying colors today.

The Improved Adoption Incentives Act contains many of the same provisions of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act, including authorizing subsidized guardianship to enable children in the care of grandparents and other relatives to exit foster care into permanency; establishing Kinship navigator programs to help link relative caregivers both inside and outside of the formal child welfare system to a broad range of services and supports that will help them meet the needs of the children in their care; requiring notice be given to adult relatives of a child if he or she is placed in foster care; and allowing states in a demonstration program the option to set separate licensing standards for relative foster parents and non-relative foster parents.

Chairman Baucus remarked that the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act was the most far-reaching and important piece of child welfare legislation the committee had considered in a decade.

There are still several steps before these important bills become law, but I don’t want to let this day pass without congratulating Senators Clinton, Grassley, Lincoln, Rockefeller and Snowe, and many others for their hard work and leadership to move both pieces of legislation.

Lastly, let me echo Senator Grassley's request that this legislation get passed before the Adoption Incentive Program expires at the end of the month. Our children have waited too long for a permanent home for us to delay any longer.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Everything's Ducky at GU

I always say the key to GU's success rests with our terrific, dedicated, hard working and committed to having fun while we pursue our mission. So it made sense that our quacker jack team should take a breather before we head into a busy fall and challenge ourselves to a ducky new adventure. Hence the debut of GU's Duck Pin Bowling League! Congratulation to Lindsay Moore who took home the fowl trophy after fighting off her closest competitors, Sheri Steinig and Terence Kane. It was a striking day and no one spared their best effort. Enjoy the photo of Team GU and have a wonderful Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Show Your Support for Pre-K

The Wall Street Journal printed an op-ed “Protect Our Kids from Preschool” this past weekend. To read the op-ed, click here. Supporting strong pre-K is a bipartisan issue. To leave a comment in the opinion forum created for the op-ed, go here. Quality early care and education are essential to children's success in school and society, and this is the basis for Generation’s United’s Seniors4Kids ( work. Thanks everyone for helping to show your support!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Good Grandmother Isn't Hard To Find

Good afternoon folks:

I want to alert you to a wonderful and heart-warming blog from an old friend of GU, author Michael Morris. Michael is author of the fantastic novel Slow Way Home, a heart-warming story about the strength a young boy drawls from the relationship with his grandparents.

He’s posted a real-life account of the role his grandmother played in his life on the cleverly-titled blog, “A Good Blog Is Hard to Find,” written by a group of southern authors. Here’s a quick excerpt (be sure to check out the whole blog):

For years, I thought the relationship I had with my grandmother was unique and something most people could not relate to or understand. And yet, through the years I have encountered others not like Senator Obama who have known special relationships with their grandparents – relationships that fostered life changes and often provided a detour to destructive journeys. The stories belong to young children and senior adults alike, who at the mere topic of their grandparents can be reduced to tears.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Exciting News to Share!

I have some exciting news to share with you. Thanks to the efforts of so many of you, Chairman Baucus has scheduled a markup of the Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act for Friday morning. This bill contains many of the provisions of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act that will provide much needed supports to grandfamilies across the country.

This is an important step forward in our hopes to pass this legislation. There is however still significant work left to be done before it becomes law. The full Senate will still need to pass the legislation and work out the differences between the House version of their bill before a final bill can be sent to the President for his signature.

I am also pleased to announce that the Senate Finance Committee will also mark up the Elder Justice Act on Friday, which provides resources to prevent the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable older adults. This is an important piece of legislation that Generations United has supported.

Friday should be a great day for anyone who cares about both young and old. In his press release, Chairman Baucus highligted the intergenerational aspect of the legislation, “These proposals will benefit hundreds of thousands of America’s most vulnerable children and senior citizens.”

The Senator and his staff deserves enormous credit for working under such a tight deadline to get this legislation together.

You can read the full text of the press release (with all those good intergenerational themes) here:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Children Unnecessarily Wait for Placement in Kinship Families

I want to pass on an article in today's New York Times by Erik Eckholm about the alarming amount of time children are waiting to be placed with kinship families while interstate background checks are performed.

The potential damage done by not placing foster children expeditiously with available relatives is too great to allow the current status quo to continue. Eckholm writes, “Minimizing moves and placing children with a qualified parent or relative are bedrock principles of child welfare.” The safety of a home should always be checked before placement, but holding children in care unnecessarily long could prove to be more damaging than originally thought. As I talked about in this blog earlier a few weeks ago, A new study, published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found substantial benefits for children placed in kinship care through increased stability and fewer behavioral problems. The research also revealed that these benefits diminished if the child waited substantial time before a placement with a relative. While states and the administration haggle over a fix they should not forget that their indecision places vulnerable children in additional jeopardy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Triumphant Day for Children, Grandparents and Other Relative Caregivers

Today the House of Representatives unanimously passed the bipartisan Fostering Connections to Success Act (HR 6307). The bill includes many of the valuable provisions of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act that support children being raised by grandparents and other relatives. These provisions will help children across the country exit foster care to a permanent home with a relative.

Chairman Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Ranking Member Jerry Weller (R-IL) deserve praise for their bipartisan work to pass the legislation. Additionally, I want to extend a special thank you to Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL) for their leadership on the Kinship Caregiver Support Act. Lastly, the bill would not have passed without the exhaustive efforts of countless advocates and congressional staff.

Comparable legislation still needs to be passed on the Senate side, and the President will still need to lend his signature, but today is a big step forward towards that goal.

Thank you again to everyone for their hard work and we look forward to a signing-ceremony (cross your fingers).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fascinating IG story on NPR this morning

I want to alert everyone to a great story this morning on NPR about the Intergenerational School in Cleveland that utilizes volunteers of all ages to mentor children. The twist is that the school also has Alzheimer’s patients teach children to read. Despite losing their memory the older volunteers are still able to effectively teach children to read. The children at the school seem to cherish them, even if the volunteers don’t remember last week’s activity.

It turns out that it’s not just the children that benefit from the extra help around the classroom. The seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia are able to stay active and have increased cognitive activity. Researchers are studying the volunteers to see if their participation in the programs has health benefits, like decreased instances of depression. I can’t wait to see the results of the study and hope others will follow Cleveland Intergenerational School’s lead.

Congratulations are in order to Nancy and Peter Whitelaw for their pioneering work in Ohio. Well done!

Link to the story:

Monday, June 09, 2008

GU Honors Intergenerational Shared Sites

Hello from the Crescent City!

I’m in New Orleans at the moment for the Volunteers of America Conference, but I wanted the chance to blog about a fantastic GU event last week at the National Press Club. On Thursday morning GU had the opportunity to honor some of the real trailblazers in the intergenerational community and release the first national study on the cost savings of intergenerational shared sites.

The report identified significant cost savings for intergenerational shared sites in the area of personnel costs compared to similar facilities that only serve a single age group. The study should spur other facilities to consider becoming an intergenerational shared site considering much of their costs are tied up in personnel costs. In addition to the costs savings, there is research out there that children, youth, and seniors show cognitive and health benefits from intergenerational interactions.

After the event, the honored shared sites took their success stories to Capitol Hill and shared their story with congressional representatives.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event, especially our awardees and particularly Shannon Jarrott of Virginia Tech for her excellent job producing the report and Metlife Foundation for sponsoring the awards.

Here’s the full list of all our awardees. The following organizations have been selected as the first award winners:

The JEWEL Program - A Partnership between Mount Kisco Day Care Center and
My Second Home
Mount. Kisco, NY
Macklin Intergenerational Institute
Findlay, Ohio
Neighbors Growing Together: Virginia Tech Intergenerational Program
Blacksburg, VA
New Alternatives, Inc. - San Pasqual Academy Neighbors Program
Escondido, CA
United Retirement Center/Avera
Brookings, SD

GU is also pleased to recognize the following National Finalists from the competition:

· Grandma's House at Westminster Care
Orlando, FL
· Greene County Educational Service Center
Yellow Springs, OH
· Hesston Intergenerational Child Development Center
Hesston, KS
· St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care Milwaukee, WI · Under One Roof, Inc.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

New Adoption Report

A new report on adoption and its interaction with race is out today. The report draws attention to the failing of this nation to find permanent homes for minority children in the foster care system. African American children represent an astounding 32% of all children in the child welfare system despite the fact they only represent 15% of children in the country.

This kind of wide-spread failure to place minority children in permanent homes means policy makers and advocates need to urgently seek out solutions that have proven results. The report identifies the success of Illinois in placing minority children in permanent homes with relatives through subsidized guardianship.

I applaud the report for recommending federal subsidized guardianship as an important avenue to permanency for these children.

Federal subsidized guardianship would allow children another option to exit foster care, while giving relatives the support they need to care for children.

Link to the Report:

Friday, May 09, 2008


On Wednesday, hundreds of grandfamilies gathered at the U.S. Capital to highlight their important role in raising children and their need for help from family, friends, state and national organizations, and elected officials. The event was a wonderful celebration of all the fantastic work grandparents and other relatives are doing raising children. Close to a 1,000 people attend the sun-filled rally. There were a number of wonderful and heartfelt speeches from the speakers.

Kellie Pickler, former “American Idol”, sang and along with other caregivers and young people shared her story of being raised by grandparents and how it “made her the woman she was.”

GU co-sponsored the event with AARP, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, GrandFamilies of America, and the National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights.

Following the rally, participants met with their legislators to urge supportive policies. Thanks to Jaia, Ken, and Terence for arranging such a heavily attended event!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Another Foster Care Tragedy

Yesterday’s New York Times story about Oklahoma’s foster care system was really sad. I think the story demonstrates how devastating foster care is for our children when it’s ill-funded and poorly structured. The story profiles Sasha Gray who went through an astonishing 42 placements during her 12 year stay in foster care. Many of these placements seem to be the result of poor management from the state child welfare office which included incredibly high case loads and a lack of qualified foster families. Multiple placements are traumatic for children and rob them of the sense of normalcy and stability that is so needed during childhood.

We have to make sure that children have all the possible options for permanency open to them if they are in foster care. Congress needs to pass legislation to enact federal subsidized guardianship to allow children to exit foster care into the safe, loving homes of grandparents and other relatives.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A little sunshine in New York

Our first signature report for GU’s Seniors4Kids New York was released on Tuesday. It’s a wonderful publication that illustrates why older adults care about children’s issues and are willing to mobilize on their behalf.

As you can tell by the photo of the S4K captains4kids and children, it was a bright day…for some. Who’s missing in the picture? The governor’s office. Yes, the day of our press conference releasing a positive report about the strong commitment generations have to each others’ well being was overshadowed by the unfolding human tragedy in New York.

The children were there, the older adults came through but an adult blew it and took the press with him. How can we teach our children about the right thing to do, when they see so many examples of the wrong thing to do? We can’t change the behavior of some of the people in the public spotlight but we can give children every day examples of adults who chose to do good rather than bad. Seniors4Kids is a wonderful venue for older adults to do good for children. All of us at GU applaud the work of Paul Arfin and the New York Captains4Kids. You brought sunshine on a gloomy day in Albany.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Intergenerational Champion Passes

I’m saddened to hear about the passing of one our greatest public servants and champions of intergenerational cooperation. Bob Ball, the former social security commissioner, passed away on Tuesday at age 93. On behalf of Generations United, I would like to offer our deepest sympathy to the Ball family for their loss.

Ball was integral to the development and health of two great pillars of society, Social Security and Medicare. Ball began working on Social Security as a field assistant in 1939 and eventually rose to the role of commissioner. Later, he was instrumental in the enactment of Medicare. He viewed these programs as a great promise to our children and seniors:

"Because we owe so much to the past, we have an obligation to pass on a world to the next generation which is a little better than the one we inherited so that those who come after, standing on our shoulders, can see a little further and do a little better in turn.”
-Robert Ball

Much of the work we do at Generations United is standing on the shoulders of Bob Ball’s exemplary life. John Rother, Chair of Generations United’s Board, attested to his leadership in an obituary published on The New York Times website. ''His dedication has inspired a whole generation of younger advocates and leaders in the field and his writings will continue to influence the debate for broader health and pension coverage for years to come.,” Rother wrote.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thoughts on the State of the Union

Last night the President delivered the State of the Union Address, his last in office. It was an admittedly subdued event with most of the media attention focused on the race for his successor (I was a bit surprised this morning to find that even The Washington Post did not publish the text of the speech).

I do believe, however, that we can take several key intergenerational points from the speech last night. The President discussed the need to increase access to childcare and assistance for military families. I commend the president for his proposal to allow spouses and other family members of veterans the ability to use their unused education vouchers. These families, many of them held together by grandparents, need our support while their loved ones serve abroad.

I also commend the President for challenging both young and old to volunteer and serve in AmeriCorps and SeniorCorps. The President also said we need to prepare our kids to read and succeed in school with improved early childhood development programs. We certainly do – that’s why GU’s Seniors4Kids ( is committed to mobilizing older adults in support of universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten for three- and four-year-olds. Education benefits all. What better legacy can older adults provide than offering top-notch education for children, the leaders of tomorrow?

As attention increasingly turns to the upcoming presidential campaign, I encourage all of you to examine what the candidates’ proposals are to unite generations and find solutions that benefit all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Political Myopia

Gene Steuerle writes a great series called The Government We Deserve for the Urban Institute (you can sign up to receive them by e-mail here). His most recent column, Thinking Long Term at the New Year, is a clear-headed look our political myopia. Gene only hints at the potential intergenerational consequences of ignoring the long view, but I'm going to ask your indulgence for a little New Year speculation of my own. I think this year's Presidential election will focus our minds on our core values. I also think that our core values can keep up with our longer lifespans if we hold fast to the ideal that the risks of aging, and indeed of living, should be spread amongst us. Society is a risk-sharing device. Of course there are inherent risks and rewards in this commitment to one another. But the rewards of a little intergenerational cooperation far outweigh the risks.