A 92-year-old woman raising five grandkids. A grandparent, forced to sell her retirement village complex to raise two children. And a grandmother who has had to fight for the legal right to raise her granddaughter.
These are the situations of just three of the more than 900 Bay of Plenty grandparents raising grandchildren.
Volunteer co-ordinators for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group are coming across similar stories and people of all backgrounds every day.
They say grandparents fall into the role for a variety of reasons but drug use is at the heart of it.
Drugs are the most common reason
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) Te Puke/Pāpāmoa volunteer co-ordinator Rawinia McCredie first became involved with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren when she started raising her grandson. At the time he was 3 – he is now 17.
McCredie said there were all sorts of reasons Te Puke and Pāpāmoa grandparents were raising their grandchildren including the death of a parent.
"But when I think about it, drugs are the most common reason.
"One of our most recent grandmothers to join the group was living in a village where you had to be over 55 to live there. All of sudden she has a 3 and a 4-year-old, both parents are on drugs, and she has had to leave the village and rent a house.
"Her home within the village is now for sale and you can almost guarantee the money it will raise will be spent on those two grandchildren," McCredie said.
"She came to a GRG meeting only last month, this had only recently happened to her, and she was in tears."
Formerly the GRG support worker in Rotorua, she has found the dynamics of the Te Puke/ Pāpāmoa group to be considerably different.
"There was more acceptance for GRG in Rotorua than there is here. Our group is small which, I believe, can be attributed to the different socio-economic climate – especially in Pāpāmoa.
"I have been contacted by a lot of European women who are raising a grandchild or grandchildren and because they are financially stable, they don't really want to join GRG.
"They often just have a query they need help with.
"I do worry though, that further down the line these women will need some emotional and mental support."
McCredie said she struggled with the general misconception it was mainly Māori families with children involved in methamphetamine and it was only Māori grandparents bringing up their grandchildren.
"That's not the case at all."
Her words are supported by a 2016 report; The empty nest is refilled: The joys and tribulations of raising grandchildren in Aotearoa, written by Liz Gordon with the participation of members of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren NZ Trust.
The report highlights the stated ethnicity of the census grandparents showed 45 per cent reported their main ethnicity as pākehā (European New Zealander), 42 per cent as Māori and 13 per cent as Pasifika.
"It is the children who suffer"
Sophie Wilson-Kahika wants more grandparents. Not necessarily biological grandparents but grandparents prepared to "get qualified" to help with the burgeoning number of Ōpōtiki youngsters who cannot be cared for by their parents.
The Ōpōtiki/Kawerau volunteer co-ordinator has been involved with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren for three years and said there had been a significant change within the Eastern Bay arm of the organisation over the past year.
"It is growing but I think many people like to keep it [that they are raising grandchildren] quiet," she said.
"The numbers of grandparents bringing up their grandchildren is definitely growing. Last year I realised my phone was ringing more and more from grandparents needing help and it hasn't slowed down this year."
She said a lot of the calls were due to financial pressure brought about by having more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe.
"People don't know where to go to get help and many of the ones who do, struggle to get through the processes required."
Wilson-Kahika believed the biggest problem in Ōpōtiki was the lack of available grandparents.
The numbers of grandparents bringing up their grandchildren is definitely growing.
"That probably sounds stupid but, if Oranga Tamariki has been involved with a child, grandparents [or other carers] must be assessed before they can take them on.
"What we are seeing here is, because some of our grandparents have a [criminal] history, they cannot look after their grandchildren – and it is the children who suffer."
At the recent GRG conference, Wilson-Kahika said she told those gathered that "we need to find more grandparents and we also need to get more of them qualified so they can take on these kids".
"I've brought about three or four grandparents [from within my family] into the GRG fold so I can teach them how to become qualified to look after young ones. They may not necessarily be the child's biological grandparent but the actual grandparent already has taken on as many children as they feel they can handle or they do not meet Oranga Tamariki standards and are looking for other family members to help share the load.
"I think this will be happening more and more."
Wilson-Kahika said meth was the reason many Ōpōtiki parents could not bring up their own children.
"That and also if they've [parents] had a child uplifted in the past, this comes up again.
"Oranga Tamariki has to be so careful as to who they leave the children with, so many are getting hurt so I understand why they have to be so careful."
Kahika said the Ōpōtiki GRG group had a 92-year-old grandmother who, with her husband, took on five grandchildren last year as both parents were using methamphetamine. She still has three of them.
"She's a fragile thing but she's put them all through school, she is an absolute legend.
"She was one of my first clients, she's one tough lady."
Wilson-Kahika also acknowledged the job of a carer was becoming more difficult because the children had serious issues.
There is nothing easy about bringing up someone else's child. Even if that child is your grandchild.
That is one of the lessons a Bay of Plenty grandmother has learned while caring for her granddaughter. But it is not the only one.
The grandmother, who will be referred to as Rose to protect her and her grandchild's identity, has spoken out about her experience as figures show more than 900 Bay of Plenty grandparents are raising more than 1700 grandchildren who no longer live with a parent.
Rose and her husband have been raising her granddaughter Lucy, also not her real name, for the past five years.
Rose had a lot to do with her granddaughter from the moment she was born. "For her first 12 months, I think I was in denial about what was happening in the home. I didn't see a lot of the things that were going on."
Over the intervening years, Rose and her husband have been back and forth to the family court as others sought care of the youngster.
"In the process, I have been accused of assaulting the child and assaulting the child's mother. I've been called a drug user, a drug dealer and an alcoholic. The court has been told I have gang connections – and each time I have had to prove I am not and I have not.
"An affidavit is a cruel piece of paper as anything can be seemingly alleged without quantification, leaving someone to prove it isn't so."
The couple did not qualify for legal aid so every appearance came at a cost.
When Lucy was 1, her parents' relationship broke down. Rose's son turned to alcohol and drugs, two substances he had already had a relationship with, to cope.
These then escalated to gambling.
"At this stage, there was drugs, neglect, volatile relationships, and transient parents. My granddaughter came to us aged 1. By 1 Lucy had learned to turn into herself so she didn't have to deal with the stresses. We had a lot of work to do at the beginning but we have learned a lot."
Her son is in rehab for addiction issues, something Rose fought to enable him to do in the hope he would be a good dad for his daughter.
"Our son is a good person but he is struggling," Rose said.
"He has faced many things in his life and unfortunately made a lot of bad choices."
When Rose took over the care of her granddaughter she was studying to be a nurse. She and her husband were also part of a dinner group and they had other recreational activities they enjoyed.
"Once she came to us I used to get up in the wee hours of the morning and cram in two hours of study before returning to bed. I'd then get up and get my granddaughter ready for preschool before going to work.
"I did eventually graduate but physically and mentally that exhausted me."
Rose said, in the beginning, she lost a lot of family connections. It was mostly the young ones who were quick to accuse her of taking her son's child from him but her siblings also distanced themselves.
On top of that, managing the physical and emotional needs of Lucy was a challenge.
"When she first came to us I did a lot of research into the abandonment issues my granddaughter was facing [every child who has been separated from their parent/parents has these issues] and what I could do to help her strengthen the bond between us.
When our granddaughter is with us she has love and care and discipline.
"For three years I stopped anyone coming near me or Lucy as it was crucial for her to have that stability, for us to bond and to form trust. We had to get her past the violence and neglect she had dealt with.
"She still has problems today but we are dealing with things a bit better."
Rose said one of the biggest things she's still trying to get her head around is the bond between a child and parent.
"It doesn't matter how much the child has been hurt, or what she has seen, it is a bond that nobody will ever be able to break."
Rose said it was frustrating so many parents didn't realise how much their actions impacted on their child.
"When our granddaughter is with us she has love and care and discipline. She has boundaries that make her feel safe. When these are removed, even very temporarily, her behaviour deteriorates and it takes days to get her back into her routine."
She said there was nothing easy about bringing up someone else's child. Even if that child was your grandchild, it was still someone else's child.
"If there are custody issues you always feel like you're on the back foot. You have to be careful about what you say and what you do and you're also facing complex issues – they [the parents] believe you've stolen their child and you're the evil person from hell and they've done nothing wrong."
Rose describes her relationship with her son as touch and go.
"This has been an emotional journey for all of us. No parent wants to fight against their child to keep their grandchild safe - that was really hard.
"No parent wants to take their child through court, not ever. Fortunately for us, our son now sees that Lucy being with us has been beneficial for her."
Rose said she sees the grandparents raising grandchildren getting older and the trauma getting worse.
"I've had some health issues that also made having a young child physically challenging.
"Fortunately this is now in the past and I can do more with Lucy. My husband and I recently ran a 2km marathon with her then I went on and ran my 10km event."
She said while the past five years had been tough, she would do it all again in a heartbeat to ensure the safety of a grandchild.
"At the time our youngest was 30-something. I had to completely change my life and I had no idea where to get any support. But we have managed,"
Rose admits there are days she feels angry and resentful.
"But you pick yourself up and get on with things. For the sake of the child, you have to."
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) chief executive Kate Bundle believes there is a generational crisis looming and educating youth about making good choices is vital.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust New Zealand is a registered not for profit organisation which provides nationwide support services, to around 7500 full-time grandparent and whānau carers in New Zealand.
According to Bundle grandparents have become full-time caregivers as a result of a traumatic event or family breakdown where there have been serious issues with the parents in about 95 per cent of the families GRG volunteer co-ordinators work with.
"Often it is due to drugs and/or alcohol abuse, violence, neglect, mental illness, imprisonment, or death of one or both parents.
"If it weren't for the grandparents [or other carers] taking on the responsibility for the care of the grandchildren, the children would be faced with state care.
"The fallout for both the grandchildren and grandparents is life-changing and requires a deep understanding of their needs as they work to reform their family and rebuild the lives of the children."
GRG volunteer support co-ordinators help grandparents and caregivers obtain the correct income entitlements, as well as provide emergency food packages and social support.
Monthly meetings are held for grandparents to meet others in similar situations and a caregiver's education programme is run to help them understand how to best care for their vulnerable grandchildren.
Co-ordinators working in the Bay of Plenty all agree their workloads have increased dramatically as the number of carers continues to increase.
Each area seems to have its own challenges although drugs and the associated issues that come with drugs are the common denominators.
The tip of the iceberg
Rotorua Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Co-ordinator Anne Donnell describes the Rotorua Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group as one of the most progressive, with a membership of over 150.
"As well as grandparents, I've got several great-grandparents raising their great-grandchildren," Donnell said.
"We are also seeing an increase in kin carers coming to our meetings."
Kin carers are aunties, cousins, siblings or basically anyone from the extended family caring for a child.
"Carers range in age anywhere from in their 30s right up to our oldest who is in her 80s. Some of the families are raising one child while others are caring for seven or eight children.
"We have a mix of ethnicities in our group although it is predominantly Māori whānau in Rotorua."
Donnell said more often than not it was nannies raising grandchildren on their own although in some cases it was a koro who was the carer.
There are also couples raising grandchildren.
"In Rotorua we have a few [carers] who are wealthy and can continue to work once they have taken responsibility for the child or children but I can count them on one hand.
"Even so, they have accepted their struggles and come to the group for support."
She said Rotorua GRG had a committee for finances and "stuff like that" and also hosted support meet and greet meetings once a month.
"We get a lot of members coming along to those. We also do a lot of things that involve the children, different outings.
"It doesn't matter what ethnicity or financial situation or what gender you are, people are dealing with the same. Kids come to us with trauma and issues and we have to end up being doctor, lawyer, social worker, psychologist, mum, dad and everything in between to try and help them."
Resentment, she said, was perfectly natural but it was also hard to deal with.
"It's a grief thing – you just grieve and grieve – for your child, for your grandchild and also for yourself."
Donnell believes the main reason Rotorua parents weren't looking after their children was drugs.
"And the drugs lead on to other things like mental health problems, neglect and violence."
She said when she took over the co-ordinator role, the job was "kind of manageable".
"Over four years it has grown and grown and grown and continues to grow. Even though I'm only a volunteer, it's like a full-time job.
"And I believe it's only the tip of the iceberg, especially in Rotorua."