Betty Cornelius is the founder of CANGRANDS KINSHIP NATIONAL SUPPORT, a national grass-roots organization dedicated to providing information and support to the 75,000 kinship children being raised by grandparents and other kinship family members. Betty has grown CANGRANDS, www.cangrands.com into two internet support groups, plus 25 chapters across Canada.
When drug addiction, mental illness, death, imprisonment and other troubles prevent parents from raising their children, kinship is the next best option. Pressures on kinships' finances, physical and mental health take significant tolls. Grandparenting guru, Dr. Arthur Kornhaber says kids reared by grandparents speak of their upbringings in unusually spiritual terms by talking about gratitude, love, the sense of a blessing and a sense of being rescued.
Betty works tirelessly providing encouragement, and moral and emotional support to kinship families. She spends an average of 4 hours each day dealing with kinship issues, from setting up speakers for the annual conference, to listening and encouraging grandparents, handling media calls, and hosting the internet support lists.
Everyday Betty is connecting with new kinship families across Canada and the need for them to be supported and heard is huge. In CANGRANDS, kinship caregivers gain a sense of belonging and understanding that reinforces their commitment to raising someone else's children.
Upon meeting Betty, folks learn about the Ontario work's TCA then of other financial resources for housing, food, clothing, transportation, cultural and recreational opportunities and all the other things needed to raise healthy kinship children successfully. She has a strong drive that motivates her to continue to learn about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Radical Attachment Disorders and Behavior Modification.
CANGRANDS NATIONAL KINSHIP SUPPORT benefits poor and oppressed kinship caregivers who have few alternatives open to them, with preference for kinship caregiver families, many with rural concerns.
Betty established the first Kinship Conference and Camp in Canada, which has become a lifeline for kinship caregivers with a unique one-of-a-kind innovative and creative bonding experience with far-reaching impact that benefits the kinship families. July 2013 was the 12 th anniversary of the annual CANGRANDS conference and camp out. This event brought together, for a week of education and fun, 103 isolated and marginalized kinship families, with the youngest member grandchild under 2 years and the oldest member in their 80's.
When in crisis, members can obtain assistance from Betty, by telephone or online through the internet support group she has also established. CANGRANDS NATIONAL KINSHIP SUPPORT stresses self-help and supports and develops leadership so that chapter leaders can take support protocols into their own community.
Betty hosts a CANGRANDS annual conference and camp offers leadership training, friendships and bonding, all of which enhance spiritual growth for the families who attend. CANGRANDS workshops and programs are based on the principles of self-help offering support and encouragement to members, who in turn, offer same to the kinship families in their own communities. This annual conference and camp is a co-operative member endeavor. Members work to build societal structures, such as local support groups, attend community meetings and post literature as part of an awareness plan. The CANGRANDS conference, as well as the camping component, benefits the kinship families who happen to be mostly poor and oppressed, senior women, (some who are visible minorities). These kinship families have few options and most have the added burden of rural living challenges.
Kinship caregivers share 'like-challenges" with many of their special needs kin children. Betty provides empowerment for leadership training and natures spiritual growth for kinship caregiver families.
In sharing links and a wide variety of information Betty gives members a sense of control over their lives, which increases the kinship caregiver's self esteem, as well as positively affecting the kinship children. When kinship caregivers get the information and support they need to help themselves, they see a decrease in: depression, anxiety and chronic health problems.
By providing workshops and respite care, the kinship families gain new and upgraded parenting and life skills. They also get a much needed break from the day-to-day routines of caring for the kin-children. Raising kinship children is a 24/7, 365 day job for most kinship caregivers, especially when parents are estranged. Some members never have the time to do self care, take a workshop or have a break from their kin children until they arrive at camp each year. In fact many are also looking after elderly parent's health and social needs - they are called the “sandwich generation plus”. There is no subsidy daycare for most kinship families therefore they rarely get a break from the needs of their kinship children.
Betty keeps abreast of Parliamentary Bills that affect kinship families, well as medical, parenting, legal and or political issues. She is a strong advocate for kin-children and kin-headed households, having been personally had the experience of being denied access to one grandchild and rescuing another from an abusive situation. Betty offers 'court support' or arranges it whenever possible, thus sharing 'been there/done that' advice on various commonly experienced issues with the court system and the CAS.
Kinship caregivers face obstacles in procuring government benefits usually given to parents. CANGRANDS NATIONAL KINSHIP SUPPORT involves members in the planning, implementation and policy aspects of advocacy for change.
Betty involves kinship families in the planning, implementation and policy-making procedures of CANGRANDS with examples and one-on-one guidance.
Since 1997 Betty has worked tirelessly to get Ontario grandparents rights with Bill 27 and has worked on five other Bills and regrettably none have passed YET!
Betty was instrumental in getting Bill 210 passed, which is commonly known as the kinship bill and is happy that a recent grandparental leave Bill was introduced.
After the Ontario government cut off funding to kinship families, Betty created a KIN-Doll campaign. CANGRANDS members rallied 19 MPP offices, as well as downtown Toronto volunteers, to deliver over 900 dolls that were representative of the kinship children. This action also resulted in significant media attention and helped launch more CANGRANDS chapters, which in turn served more members.
Betty has been a welcomed speaker at workshops and conferences, on topics such as kinship in Canada, denied access and violence issues. She has a strong background in business, addictions and social psychology and thrives on 'making things happen'. Betty is one of those speakers fully versed on 'Grandparenting in Canada'. Her "passion" is to promote these social issues and to support the kinship cause on an ongoing basis. She encourages members to be vocal on all political levels, not to be afraid to speak up to the powers that need to hear and to never be afraid to ask!
Betty started a project called Hands & Hearts quilt, which is a quilt that has travel across Canada to promote both denied grandparents and those raising grandchildren. To view Hearts & Hands Quilt: http://grandsplace.com/quilt/quilt.html
Betty spoke at the First International Kinship Conference, held in New York in 2007, and in March 2008 at the AARP in Washington DC, as well as at the United Nations Youth round table in Ottawa.
In 2011, Betty was nominated for Everyday Heroes for Chatelaine magazine. As well, she was one of the top ten finalists for Grandparent of the Year for GRAND magazine.
In June 2013 Betty won the Distinguished Alumni Award from Grant MacEwan University.
In 2012 and 2013 Betty was Nomination for the Wal-Mart Mom of the Year.
In 1980 Betty's mother was murdered, so she also speaks on issues affecting 'Victims of Violence".
On top of all she does for kinship families, Betty works part time as a Mental Health Support worker. Betty has fostered 32 children over the past 30 years