Grandparents raising grandchildren in New Zealand number around 7500.

Palmerston North Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) support group co-ordinator Jacqui Phillips says the average age of grandparents is in their late 50s.

"They work fulltime with grandchildren coming into care."

The national website, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren NZ (GRG), says they are a community of people walking the same path, experiencing the same sorrow, joy and challenges that the role as grandparent and whānau caregiver brings.

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GRG say support co-ordinators like Phillips are a key part of their integrated approach to supporting over 7500 grandparent and whanau/kin caregivers nationwide.

Phillips says GRG is a non-judgmental group, here to support those caring for their grandchildren. The carer can be any family member - an aunt or older sibling, not just a grandparent.

Phillips said the issue of family breakdown was across New Zealand and affected all of society.

Methamphetamine, she says, is the silent Covid-19 and one of the key factors in children being cared for by family members.

Alcohol, mental health, domestic abuse and relationship break-ups also contribute to a family breakdown where whānau, kin and grandparents step up to care for the children.

Twenty years ago a woman named Diane Vivian had her grandchildren come into her care.

"She had no financial or emotional support," says Phillips, which led to her founding GRG.

Vivian said: "Our objectives are to help them (caregivers), by providing them with much-needed support and information, empowering them to provide a safe, nurturing and supported home environment that will also promote their ongoing wellbeing and development."

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GRG says many of the children coming into care have special needs and suffer from psychological damage. Many of these traumatised children need considerable help and support.

The way children come into care is through Oranga Tamariki or through the Family Court.

Phillips says some grandparents have had to go to court to become the main caregiver, which can cause huge division in the family.

Applications for financial support for the children coming into care must go to Work and Income for the unsupported child or orphan's benefit.

The caregiver is then referred to Barnardos that make the recommendation for the benefit.

+ Contact: palmerstonnorth@grg.org.nz, www.GRG.org.nz
Palmerston North GRG meet monthly, Thursdays, 6pm-7.30pm: July 2, August 6, September 3, October 1, November 5 and December 3.