In 1997, when Diane Vivian took over the care of her small, traumatised grandchildren, she could not believe the stress she encountered.
Setting out to discover what help or support was available in 1999, she found there was none! She decided there must be many others in her position and put an ad in the paper. The phone did not stop ringing. A need had been identified.
In consultation with Jill Nerheny, the Birkenhead /Northcote Community Co-ordinator, a support group was set up under the control of the Community Facilities Trust. A public meeting was held and they knew they had a tiger by the tail. The group set the objectives and a vision statement which now form the founding document and guiding principles of all the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren groups.
Today there are over 45 support groups throughout the country, reaching from Dargaville in the north to Invercargill in the South. Membership grows daily.
The grandparents are often living on superannuation or may be saving for their retirement, they may have downsized their home for retirement, and the often unexpected arrival of one or more grandchildren is a heavy strain. The grandchildren are placed with the grandparents because of parental violence, substance abuse, mental illness, neglect and, in some cases, through death of a parent or a serious illness.
When abuse is involved, one of the hardest things these grandparents must do is to appear in court cases against their own flesh and blood. As one could expect this places the family dynamics in a precarious position. There are safety issues not just for the children but also for the grandparents. The grandchildren are often traumatised and many have special needs; this in itself makes care giving difficult.
The retirement funds they may have saved are gobbled up in protracted court cases.
Research in New Zealand in 2005 showed grandparents raising children were aged from 40 to 91 with most being in the 50 to 60+ bracket.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is a non-profit charitable trust run by a board of trustees.
What does it do?
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren groups actively lobby parliament, network with other communities and speak to many community organisations throughout NZ.
They strive to make a difference for all grandchildren and grandparents who care for them.
The organisation salutes all grandparents who have taken in grandchildren and put the needs of those precious ones before their own.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren provides support to grandparents who are primary caregivers to grandchildren in difficult circumstances.
The aim is to ensure fair treatment from the legal and child protection services in New Zealand, in order to stablise and normalise the life of the children involved.
This is achieved by:
- providing support to grandparents who are primary caregivers
- providing opportunities for the grandchildren to meet others in the same situation
- raising awareness as to the role of the grandparents in the primary caregiving role
- undertaking research to establish the depth of grandparents in the primary caregiver role in New Zealand and responding accordingly
- facilitating change in the legal and child custody systems
How is it funded?
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is funded through grants and donations.
How can I get their help?
You can contact the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust at:
- Ph 0800 472 637 (toll calls from Grandparents only please) or
- Auckland 09 480 6530 9:00am to 3:00pm
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.grg.org.nz
Contact details for the 45 branches of the Trust are available on the website.
How much does it cost?
The help offered by Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust is free.
Link to Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Website
This is a bright and well-organised website with comprehensive information for grandparents and families. It includes a branch directory and a bulletin board for discussion on issues relating to the raising of the children; financial concerns; legal issues; and an e-coffee group. There are information handbooks to download on “Help for Kinship Carers” and “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren”. The trust also provides a monthly newsletter and back issues are available on the website.