Psychology department establishes Relatives as Parents Program at MSU

Mississippi State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Danielle Nadorff is leading a support group that will provide information and other helpful resources for grandparents and other relatives serving as caregivers for children. (Photo by Russ Houston)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.— Mississippi State’s Department of Psychology is hosting a support group that will provide information and other helpful resources for grandparents and other relatives serving as caregivers for children.

Under the direction of MSU Assistant Professor of Psychology Danielle Nadorff, the Relatives as Parents Program will meet from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. on the second Monday of each month starting Nov. 13. Lunch will be provided.

The meetings will be held inside St. Joseph Catholic Church’s Parish Hall at 607 University Drive in Starkville. Free transportation is available through MSU’s S.M.A.R.T. route shuttle service.

Funding is made possible with support from the Teaneck, New Jersey-based Brookdale Foundation Group, which initiated the Relatives as Parents Program on a national level in 1996. RAPP is designed to encourage and promote the creation or expansion of services for grandparents and other relatives who have taken on the responsibility of surrogate parenting due to the absence of children’s parents. For more, visit

Participants of the MSU support group will discuss a range of topics, including communication, problem solving, stress management, parenting practices, and ways to cope with problem behavior.

Nadorff said MSU graduate students also will gain firsthand experience by providing interventions throughout the duration of the support group.

“We will teach common therapeutic techniques that grandparents can use in their own families. They can practice these techniques at home, and when we have our weekly meeting, we can discuss and give them feedback,” said Nadorff, whose primary research focus has centered on custodial grandparents since 2009.

In particular, Nadorff investigates the social, cognitive, emotional and behavioral outcomes for custodial grandchildren, as well as how they compare to children raised in foster care. On a broader scale, she also is interested in early childhood development and predictors of subsequent academic success.

Nadorff said children may be under the care of grandparents or other relatives due to parental substance abuse, mental illness, incarceration, economic hardship, divorce or domestic violence. Many grandparents may be raising more than one child in the same household, she added.

“Most of the time, grandparents do not have formal guardianship, so they are not able to do things like enroll their grandchildren in school or get access to report cards, and they may experience issues relating to health insurance,” Nadorff explained.

Within Mississippi, the 2000 census revealed there are over 83,000 grandchildren living in their grandparents’ homes, with close to 50,000 grandparents reporting that they are responsible for raising their grandchildren in the state. This equates to more than one in every 10 children in Mississippi being raised by their grandparents.

At a local level, an estimated 819 custodial grandparents live in Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties (Census, 2015).

According to national databases, the only existing grandfamily support group within the Magnolia State is Pinebelt Association for Families, headed by Sylvia Forster, Ph.D., in Hattiesburg. Nadorff said Forster and Bert Hayslip, Ph.D., the widely-regarded “father” of custodial grandparent research, both have provided expertise instrumental in establishing the support group at MSU.

For more information on MSU’s new Relatives as Parents Program or to express interest in participating, contact Nadorff at 662-325-3202 or

Part of the College of Arts and Sciences, MSU’s Department of Psychology is online at Information on the college can be found at

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