Eileen Mayers Pasztor, professor of social work at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), received the Barbara Wasson “Making a Difference Award” from Grandparents as Parents (GAP), a Los Angeles-based, nationally recognized non-profit that provides support, educational resources and advocacy for grandparents and other relatives raising their grandchildren or other family children.
“Social workers are mandated to follow a code of ethics which includes six major principles: being competent, having dignity, having integrity, believing in the importance of relationships, providing service and advocating for social justice,” Pasztor pointed out. “What attracted me to GAP was how this pioneer and premier organization, both locally and nationally, believes in the same principles.”
When parents are not willing, able or do not have the resources to raise their children, then relatives--especially grandparents--step in and provide what is known as “kinship care” or as noted by the founder of GAP, Sylvie de Toledo, “unplanned parenting.” These caregivers, whether family or friends, face considerable challenges: legal, financial, child behavior, school, health and mental health, accessing resources and much more. The numbers of children needing kinship care continue to rise.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Kids Count” report, there were 32,000 children in Los Angeles being raised by grandparents in 2011, up from 27,000 in 2007. In Long Beach, the number was 6,000 in 2011, up from 4,000 in 2007.
“Kinship care has a long history with our School of Social Work. More than 10 years ago, CSULB faculty members Marilyn Potts, Cathy Goodman and I developed a training program for social workers to collaborate with kinship caregivers," Pasztor said. "GAP was instrumental in helping us with the research for that curriculum. It is now in its second edition, published and disseminated nationally by the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA). Our school has been a proud sponsor of the annual GAP conferences held on our campus.”
Since 1987, GAP has worked to provide services to meet the ongoing needs of grandparents and other relatives who are raising children at risk. Among its services, GAP sponsors 20 weekly therapeutic support groups across Los Angeles County. In 2010, they opened the Caregiver Center at the Edelman Children’s Court in Monterey Park and have since helped hundreds of families navigating the legal system and government agencies.
Pasztor is experienced as a public agency caseworker and administrator, curriculum developer and trainer internationally. She is also a social work field instructor and has experience as a foster and adoptive parent for children with special needs. She was also the CWLA’s first national program director for kinship care and was a liaison between the organization and 200 child welfare agencies in the Western United States. She also designed foster and adoptive parent training programs that are used across the nation and internationally.
Wasson, a founding member of GAP passed away in April. A nationally recognized advocate for relative caregivers, she often travelled to Washington, D.C. and cities throughout the country to educate and lobby about the needs of relative caregivers.
For more information or to help GAP, visit the Grandparents as Parents website.