By the time children reach their late teens, parents are likely to be thinking their days of raising youngsters are behind them.

But, increasingly, more and more grandparents are finding that isn't necessarily the case.

Sometimes without any warning, they find themselves once again looking after young children fulltime.

"I know of people who have ended up with three grandchildren, who might be traumatised, arrive with just the clothes they are standing in, literally over night," says Tauranga Grandparents Raising Grandchildren support co-ordinator Karen Ormsby.

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While there are the practical difficulties of having space for children, getting clothes, toys and bedding for them as well as the extra cost, this can be just the tip of the iceberg.

"One of the main issues, probably because a lot of children come from a bad situation, they are often traumatised and may need counselling - we need to see more help given to these people."

One of the other big issues is grandparents having to foot legal bills to get guardianship of children.

"Some grandparents have received legal aid, but a lien is put on their home so they have to pay it back when they sell their house. Some resort to representing themselves, which leaves them open to another kind of stress.

"GRG would like to see more help in these situations.

If you're doing the right thing and giving children a safe environment, you shouldn't have to be paying thousands in legal fees - it doesn't seem fair - it's wrong when you are trying to give a child a safe home."

Looking after her grandson was a situation Robyn (not her real name) found herself in.

"It was three years before I got a spontaneous cuddle and two years before he asked a spontaneous question," she says.

"He's seven years old and wants to become a policemen so he can arrest bad parents - in a perfect world, he wouldn't know about those things."

Robyn says things like her regular social life and plans for retirement went out of the window. But, she says, the alternative would be worse for children.

"If it wasn't for grandparents, they'd be in state or foster care, so this isn't an ideal situation, but it's better than that and the impact it might have on their later life.

Sometimes you are battling (the children) too as they don't always realise the full implications of going back to mum or dad. In their eyes, you are keeping them away from mum and dad."

Many children are traumatised because of the home environment they have experienced.

"The kids themselves are complex and challenging and often there are lots of organisations working to keep the child functioning - but then they turn round and do something spectacular and it's amazing," says Robyn.

GRG is free to join and locally there are monthly support meetings on the first Tuesday of the month at St Peter's in the City between 10am and 12.30pm. To mark GRG awareness week there is a picnic in Tauranga Memorial Saturday, October 31, between 11am and 2pm. For details call Karen 579 3571.

AWARENESS WEEK
Next week is Grandparents Raising Grandchildren awareness week. In the last 10 years the number of grandparent caregivers in New Zealand has more than doubled to more than 9500 grandparents raising around 17,000 children.

GRG Trust has nearly 6000 members caring for more than 10,000 children. In more than 95 per cent of the families the organisation works with, grandparents have become fulltime caregivers as a result of a traumatic event or family breakdown. Often it is a result of drugs and/or alcohol, abuse, violence, neglect, mental illness, imprisonment or death.