GLENIS and Michael* returned from their honeymoon four years ago eager to begin their new life together.
Having a child was not part of their plan. They had already raised their families, who had long left the nest.
But the Newcastle couple soon learned Glenis’s grandson had been placed into care by Family and Community Services, triggering their 18-month battle to gain custody. Glenis had herself grown up “shipped from pillar to post” in the foster system, and was determined to give her grandson a stable existence within his family.
Glenis and Michael are part of a growing number of grandparents and kinship carers in the Hunter who are raising a loved one’s child.
They said they had been lucky, but many children from neglectful situations needed ongoing counselling.
“The few hundred dollars you get fortnightly just wouldn’t cover the cost of things like that,” Glenis said.
Friends from their Grandparents As Parents group have had a “really rough trot” financially, physically and emotionally.
*Last name withheld.
They had the angst of worrying about their own child, as well as the financial pressure and concern for their grandchildren.
“It is not something you think is ever going to happen,” Glenis said.
“Then it happens, and you’re not as young as you used to be… I’m a lot older and I run out of breath quicker, and things have changed.
They have full parental responsibility of their grandson, now 7, which means they receive a fortnightly allowance.
They would like to see all children in out-of-home care receive the same entitlements and support, as the current system meant grandparents and kinship carers were often left out of pocket.
“As hard as it is at times, we wouldn’t change it for the world,” Glenis said.
“You sleep well at night knowing he’s with you, and he is safe.”
Samaritans community services manager Melissa Wiseman said kinship carers often opted for informal care arrangements in an effort to keep it out of the court system, or to intervene before Family and Community Services stepped in.
But these informal arrangements could make it more difficult to receive financial support.
“It is often very complex and messy,” she said.
“Finances are a big reason people come to us. You might have been retired, then all of a sudden you’ve got young children again.”
As well as offering support groups to grandparent and kinship carers, Samaritans could offer access to financial counsellors, and an adviser within Centrelink who could look at individual situations.
- Anita Beaumont