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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Empowering Grandparent and Whānau Carers

    Photo: Left to right – Winstone Hirst – GRG Rotorua Support Group Committee Member, Anne Donnell – GRG Rotorua Support Group Coordinator and Connie Hapi – GRG Member | At the Rotorua Support Group Christmas Function 2022.

    Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG’s) support services and education programmes provide essential assistance to full-time grandparents and other whānau caregivers of tamariki and rangatahi who cannot be raised by their parents and in circumstances where the only alternative is non-kin foster care.

    GRG NZ offers specialised services to empower carers to raise tamariki and rangatahi and to strengthen their whānau. Services focus on supporting, equipping and empowering full-time grandparents and whānau caregivers and include multiple channels, such as a free helpline, information resources, crisis support, advice and advocacy services, education programmes and local support groups.

    Funding from Rotorua Trust has assisted with GRG’s services in the region, with 217 caregiver families in the area, GRG represents 369 full-time grandparent or whanau caregivers, raising 702 mokopuna and tamariki. These numbers are an increase of 26 caregiver families over the past 12 months.

    Case studies from GRG Rotorua showcase the impact of these services, with one Rotorua grandmother sharing how she has been raising her grandchild as a sole grandparent for the past three years, needing help from GRG’s advocacy support several times in the past year. She has accessed income support and food essentials for her grandchild. Due to the impact of GRG’s services, her grandchild is now safe, attending school, engaged in additional sports and hobbies and has been registered with a doctor since coming into her care. She speaks of the value of sharing experiences with the rest of GRG at support groups.

    Another story is that of a great-grandmother raising her two grandchildren for the past six years as a sole caregiver. GRG gave her advice on additional avenues for financial support, and with GRG’s help and advice, she now has a better understanding of how to support her grandchildren emotionally, and she feels connected to other caregivers in similar circumstances to her own. She says that while she occasionally panics due to raising two grandchildren alone, the monthly support groups allow everyone to discuss any issues.

    Over the past year, GRG has provided one-on-one advocacy support to 38 families in Rotorua via their Specialist Advocacy and Community Outreach Service. This included support to access financial entitlements, assisting in resolving matters with external agents through the community outreach advocate, and emergency care packs, including clothing and essentials.

    A concerning trend with new clients has been the increase in complex issues and violence that children have been exposed to, which GRG programme organisers say have underscored the need for services and programmes to help their grandparent caregivers get the support they need to provide tamariki and rangatahi with a safe, secure and loving environment.

    New members are referred to one of GRG’s specialist advocates to work directly with that client to advise them on their options to resolve issues and needs and, where appropriate, to advocate with external agencies. Ongoing support is also provided throughout a local Support Group network, and they make referrals to other agencies for local and continued support.

    GRG’s future aspirations are to continue and further develop the enhancement of community outreach advocacy and caregiver education programmes supporting the complex needs of caregiver families and their tamariki and rangatahi. This includes further training and development of outreach and advocacy teams, strategies to respond to the needs of their growing client base, more print and digital resources providing relevant information to support caregivers and rangatahi in their care, further development of the SALT programme targeting caregivers struggling with significant behavioural issues affecting the children in their care, meeting the cost of Rotorua Support groups project expenses and supporting group initiatives to educate caregivers in the community, ensuring that they are better placed to provide a stable, loving home environment.