Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Raising Your Kids'Kids: Support for Foster Kin

Parenting is a life-long endeavor; full of great beauty, intense struggle and plenty of surprises. There are times when we are not expecting to parent, but life has other plans.
In Vermont, 2,400 grandparents report they are responsible for raising their grandchildren. That  number is nearly 2.5 million nationally. This means that over 5,500 children within the state of Vermont and 5.8 million children nationally are being raised in grandparent-headed households, also called “Grand Families,” according to AARP. Generally speaking, this is called kinship or adaptive care.
“Kinship care is when an adult relative cares for a child under the age of 18, either on a temporary or permanent basis. The relative is most often a grandparent,” but can also be another relative or a family friend (Vermont Resource Guide for Relatives Caring for Children).
The situations leading to kinship care are many and may include: substance abuse, economic hardship, divorce, domestic violence, incarceration, a sudden death in the family, mental health issues, military service or the parent is unable to provide safe, appropriate care for his or her children. There are times when many of these situations overlap, causing great stress and uncertainty within the family.
While kinship can be joyous and exceptionally gratifying, it can also be overwhelming; emotionally, legally and financially. In some situations, “You’re trying to parent two people; an infant child and adult child,” said Betty Holton, a grandparent, during an interview on WCAX television.
Fortunately, there are resources and peer support for grandparents navigating the complexities of kinship care, including a local group called “Circle of Support for Kinship Caregivers.” Below is a list of resources and support tailored for foster/kinship families.
 ·      Vermont 2-1-1. Dial 2-1-1 from your phone or go to to find resources, support, legal or financial services.
·      Vermont Resources Guide for Relatives Caring for Children. Resource guide including financial and legal information as well as a directory of local and state organizations.
·      Local support of kinship caregivers. Circle of Support for Kinship Caregivers. Meets every other Thursday from 10-11:30 at Parks Place in Bellows Falls. For more information, contact Deb Witkus at 802.463.9927 ext 212 or
·      Statewide education and support group for relatives raising children.
· bi-weekly blog is a forum for kinship, foster, and adoptive families to share with one another. Created by the Child Welfare Training Partnership. The partnership also offers trainings and resources for adaptive/kinship families.
·      Promotes public policy that enhances the lives of children and youth in Vermont.
Chad Simmons is the media coordinator for the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition. It is the vision of the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition to build a healthy, nurturing and supportive community. Our mission is to connect the community of Windham Northeast by inspiring and empowering people through education and collaboration to promote wellness and prevent the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I'll Keep Going as Far as I Can Go: Artie Aiken, Almost 100

Artie Aiken turns 100 years old June 10, and everybody is asking him about his longevity. “I don’t really know,” he shrugs. “All I can lay it to is work, really hard work.”

He has worked hard, all his life. As a young man, he was hired on by many of the farmers in town. First by W.H. Bent at the present Kestrel Farm and later by Charlie Holton, helping him grow potatoes, and Artie has this story about working for my grandfather, Paul G. Harlow, during the floods after the 1938 hurricane. Artie was milking cows. “The wind blew the silo roof off,” Artie says. “It was pitch dark, no light out there; I kept right on milking by hand until I got them done.”

Starting in 1946, after he got back from the service, Artie went to work for the Boston and Maine Railroad for twenty years, at a beginning wage of 40 cents an hour. He still often did farm work. “I’d get home from the railroad, and there would always be someone waiting in my yard—‘can you come do some work for me?’”

In the 1960s, he joined the crew that built I-91from Brattleboro to Hartland, and after that, he built houses for Sam Streeter for ten years. He still works, you could say – he keeps Pete Harrison company on his Meals on Wheels rounds.

Artie was born on Acton Hill in Townshend and his family moved to Hartley Hill in Westminster when he was five years old. In 1942, he moved to School Street, next door to his present house, then sold that and moved to where he lives now. Artie’s wife, Mary, born a Parda in Westminster, died in 2007.

This will be the first year that Artie isn’t planting a garden, he says. “It’s too much for me. Just old age got against me.” Except maybe he’ll put in a couple of plants so he can pick tomatoes for a fresh sandwich: untoasted bread, mayo, tomato. No salt, no pepper. “It makes a good sandwich,” he says. And sure enough, come May 19, Artie was planting a couple of tomato plants.

Artie is a well-known local dowser, and this is how he started: He was working on the railroad, watching for trains while a co-worker welded, down in Dummerston. “We were getting kind of dry, and I said ‘If I only had a drink.’” His buddy bent each of his welding rods at one end and handed them to Artie. Artie started walking. He didn’t have to go far before the moving rods told him where to dig. “I dug down with my hands and water come right up out of the ground,” he said. “I’ve still got those rods and I’ve found water everywhere.”

 “To get to 100,” he says,  “it seems like it’s five years. But the days come and go….I’ll keep going as far as I can go.”

Everyone is invited to celebrate Artie’s 36,500 days, at his house, 79 School Street, Sunday, June 9, from noon to 4 p.m. Bring a side dish or dessert, if you can. 

And if you haven’t already, wish Dick Morse a Happy Century, too. He turned 100 this year, along with Louise Morse.

Susan Harlow is a member of the Westminster Cares Board of Directors.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Learn How to Secure and Dispose of Prescription Medications

Prescription medications have become an important part of our lives. They help us manage pain or treat a health condition. But what do we do with them once they have expired or are no longer needed? How do we make sure they are safe and secure while we are using them?

You can dispose of them in prescription-drug drop boxes, now available throughout Windham County. The drop boxes allow for the safe, anonymous disposal of expired or unwanted prescription medications that could otherwise be misused or end up in our environment.

The non-medical use of prescription drugs such as Oxycodone continues to raise public safety concerns. Unfortunately, we have to be aware of how our medications are stored and disposed of in order keep them out of the hands of those who may misuse them. Seventy percent of users of non-medical prescription pain relievers obtain their drugs for free from a friend or relative. Most of the time, these medications are taken without our knowledge or permission. Teens frequently say they were able to get prescription medications from their parent or grandparent’s medicine cabinet.

What can you do to safely secure your medications?

  • Keep your medications locked or hidden.
  • Keep count of your medications.
  • Talk to your family about the dangers of abusing prescription medications.
  • Make sure your children or grandchildren know they are not to be used or shared.
  • Properly dispose of all prescription medications once expired or no longer needed.
How does prescription medication disposal work?
  • Collect all expired or unused prescription pills or patches and place in disposable bag.
  • Drop off medications at the most convenient box near you.
  • The process is completely anonymous. 

Items that cannot be taken:
  • Medical equipment or accessories (needles, syringes, Epi-Pens, inhalers, etc.)
  • Any liquid materials
  • Bloody, infectious or business waste

Locations near you:
  • Bellows Falls Police Department: 170 Rockingham St., Bellows Falls (open 24/7)
  • Windham County Sheriff’s Department: 11 Jail St., Newfane (open 7am-10pm daily)
  • Brattleboro Police Department: 230 Main St., Brattleboro (open 24/7)

For more information about prescription drug disposal efforts and other initiatives to prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, contact the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition at or 802.463.9927.

Chad Simmons is media coordinator for the Greater Falls Prevention Coalition, whose mission is to connect the community of Windham Northeast by inspiring and empowering people through education and collaboration to promote wellness and prevent the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.  

“Old age ain’t no place for sissies,”  Bette Davis said. Well, sissies or not, we’re all headed for that place. And the better we know the geography, the easier it will be to navigate.
“Aged in Vermont” is a monthly article on aging issues, organized by Westminster Cares. We’re asking local professionals and residents with an interest in these issues to write them.
The articles are not just reading material for the “aged.” Young, old and middle-aged readers  ­– anyone with an elderly parent, relative or friend, or who just wants to learn about these important issues that affect us all ­– is invited to take a look. Remember: “It’s not how old you are; it’s how you are old.”

We address such topics as losing a pet, sleeping problems, supplements, advanced directives and creativity. We explore questions such as should I move to town? and decision making: whose life is this anyway?

Ideas for future columns? Would you like to write one? We’d like to hear from you. Email Ronnie Friedman at