Howard County's System of Care program is offering a free monthly support group to grandparents who have become the primary caregivers for their grandchildren.

The group meets from 5 to 7 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at Kokomo's downtown YMCA. Free child care is offered to anyone in the group who calls 765-860-8365 by the third Monday of the month.

The prevalence of grandfamilies, as such arrangements are often called, has ballooned in the midst of the national drug crisis. Grandparents have come out of retirement or altered their lives to take in children whose parents are unable to care for them.

And as more children are removed from their parents’ homes, more kinship placement situations arise. Grandparents or other relatives often serve as the first choice for Department of Child Services officials.

More than 110,000 Hoosier children under 18 live in homes where the head of the house are grandparents, according to statistics last updated in 2017 by the AARP, Children's Defense Fund, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and others. That constitutes 7 percent of the state’s children.

The SOC program provides education and training to address needs and concerns experienced by relative caregivers; a confidential and voluntary support group allowed peers to discuss their experiences; and referrals to community services and resources, according to a flyer.

"It is not only support for each other but resources will be available each week," said Howard County SOC Coordinator Jennifer Johnson in an email.

George Myers can be reached at 765-454-8585, by email at george.myers@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @gmyerskt.

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