SUPPORT GROUP FOR GRANDPARENT CARERS PROVIDES INVALUABLE FRIENDSHIPS, ADVICE AND ADVOCACY
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.