Life & Style Weekend - - EVENTS -

One year ago, Sun­shine Coast grand­par­ents Ker­rie and Ross Parker were living a quiet life in a small Victorian town.

To­day, they are rais­ing their seven year old grand­son in Queens­land, af­ter a tragic chain of events left them as the pri­mary care­givers for a child who had, to that point, been rel­a­tively un­known to them.

“We dis­cov­ered Eli was a Ward of the State and his mother passed away dur­ing that time from a drug over­dose,” Ker­rie says.

“His father was un­known and he didn’t have any­one. I im­me­di­ately got a fire in my belly … Eli was just three hours away from us.”

A nine month process en­sued, as Ker­rie – re­cov­er­ing from can­cer treat­ment and hav­ing just lost their daugh­ter – and Ross demon­strated their abil­ity and health to raise their young rel­a­tive.

“When we got him home, we re­alised the one thing we couldn’t of­fer him was friends to play with, so we moved to the Sun­shine Coast within a month to be with my other daugh­ter and her kids.” Ker­rie said.

Thank­fully, an early call to Child Pro­tec­tion put the Park­ers in touch with Com­mu­nity So­lu­tions’ Grand­par­ents as Par­ents (GAP) pro­gram, which supports over 120 grand­par­ent fam­i­lies on the Sun­shine Coast in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.

“I had a child I didn’t know, so I joined GAP as a sup­port group. I didn’t join for Eli, I joined for me and I couldn’t have done it with­out them,” Ker­rie says of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Now Ross, Eli and I at­tend the peer group meet­ings and the fam­ily events. The guest speak­ers are also re­ally good and help with is­sues like le­gal ad­vice.

“And for Eli, GAP has be­come re­ally, re­ally im­por­tant. He goes to school and he sees all of the mums and dads pick­ing up their kids … he knows his mother had aban­doned him be­fore she passed away. Through GAP, he has started to form friend­ships and he spends time on the hol­i­days with boys from the group who have that vi­tal un­der­stand­ing.”

Out­side of GAP, Eli is also flour­ish­ing. as he at­tends school and en­joys time with his cousins en­joy­ing the Sun­shine Coast lifestyle.

“The Sun­shine Coast has been a great place for him. He swims, plays soc­cer and has had so many achieve­ments up here. We know we have of­fered him the best pos­si­ble life here.”

“My son-in-law comes in very handy, par­tic­u­larly with all the computer stuff, Minecraft and setting up that sort of thing.” For grand­par­ent car­ers on the Sun­shine Coast, the GAP pro­gram pro­vides in­for­ma­tion and case man­age­ment sup­port with di­rect ad­vo­cacy, group ac­tiv­i­ties and a so­cial pro­gram to bring grand­par­ent car­ers together and ad­dress is­sues of so­cial iso­la­tion.

“I would tell any other grand­par­ent car­ers to join,” Ker­rie says.

“We need each other. We have so many chal­lenges and we have a com­mon bond. You can come as lit­tle or as much as you like and the ser­vice is amaz­ing. The events are won­der­ful and are of­ten held in the school hol­i­days when we are re­ally tired and need a break, so it’s per­fect.”

The Grand­par­ents as Par­ents pro­gram is de­liv­ered by Com­mu­nity So­lu­tions at no cost to par­tic­i­pants, and is funded by the Com­mon­wealth Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices.

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