By Raising Children Network
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Seniors group in a community centre iStockphoto.com/vm
 
Being a grandparent or kinship carer is a big job, but you don’t have to do it alone. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been caring for a child for a while, there are many support services for grandparents and kinship carers that can help you.

Becoming a grandparent or kinship carer

Becoming a grandparent or kinship carer gives you many opportunities to teach, nurture and encourage a growing child. You can share family values and traditions, and give the child a stable home through the ups and downs of life.

But looking after children at any age takes time, patience and energy. Only you can decide if taking full-time care of a child will be right for you and the child.

If you’re finding it difficult to decide, or need help getting your family together to talk about the care of a child, you could talk to a local family counsellor. Relationships Australia also provides a range of counselling, family mediation and support services that can help.

You can read more about being a grandparent carer and being a kinship carer. You might also like to find out more about getting help with legal and money matters for carers.

Grandparents and kinship carers: tips for getting started

When you’re a new carer, there’s a lot to organise. It can be hard to know where to start. If the child has been placed with you by your state or territory child protection authority, case workers will usually help you. Your case worker will also let you know about the decisions you can make about the child, and the decisions that need the authority’s agreement.

Here are a few ideas to help you get organised.

Contact services
National, state and local services for carers can give you advice and information on the support they offer. Australia-wide and state-based services might offer different support, so it’s a good idea to contact all the ones that might be able to help you. There’s a list of services below.

Arrange medical check-ups
When the child comes to live with you, it’s a good idea to make an appointment for a general check-up for him with your GP, plus dental and eye checks. These check-ups are a chance to identify any health issues that you might need to take care of when the child comes into your care. Also keep in mind the child’s mental health and whether he needs counselling.

If you’re worried about the child at all, talk with your GP, who’ll be able to tell you about local counsellors or psychologists.

If the child you’re caring for is enrolled in Medicare, you can still claim for the child’s medical treatment, even if you don’t have her Medicare card. Ask your doctor to phone Medicare on 1300 660 035 to find out the child’s Medicare number. You can also ask Medicare about having the child put on your Medicare card.

Organise clothing and other equipment
You might need to get clothes, school uniforms, car seats or prams for younger children, furniture like a bed and desk, and so on. Local support agencies can help you with new or used clothing, furniture and payments for families in need. You could start with your local Vinnies or Salvation Army.

Think about child care and school
Child care might be important for you if you’re still working or if you want to give yourself a bit of a break each week. For a school-age child, you’ll need to think about enrolling the child at school.

Tell people what you need
Case workers, courts, schools, doctors and other services are there to help you. It’s important to be clear with them about your needs and the needs of the child. Also ask for their advice on getting the best support for you and the child.

Getting your paperwork organised can help you keep track of things. You might like to keep a folder, diary or computer file or spreadsheet. You can use it to write down:

  • who you’ve talked to
  • when you talked to them
  • what you talked about.

Also keep copies of any document or letters. If it all seems too much, ask a friend or family member to help you get organised. 

Look into support for the child
Organisations like the Create Foundation, the Mirabel Foundation and the Pyjama Foundation provide support to children who can’t live with their parents. They hold events where children can meet others who are in the same situation. 

If you need to talk about your situation, parenting and general hotlines can really help. They can also give you information about services and support in your area.

Ongoing support for carers

Even if you’ve had the care of a child for some time, you still need information and support. If your situation changes – for example, because of retirement or illness – you can contact Centrelink for information about government payments. Or there might be an issue with the child’s parent that needs mediation or advice.

Taking a break
Caring for a child can be demanding, and everyone needs a break. In fact, taking a break from caring for your child is an important part of taking care of yourself.

You can get different kinds of respite. For example, you might be able to ask family or friends to care for the child so that you can have a weekend away. Some carer families find that they can take it in turns with the families of their grandchild’s friends for the children to sleep over. This can give everyone a break.

If the child was put into your care by a child protection authority, you’ll need to talk to the case worker before organising respite care for the child. To find out more about respite options in your area, call your local family support service or the child protection authority in your state or territory.

Joining a support group
You can find support groups for kinship carers all over Australia. Grandparents and kinship carers say that support groups are a ‘brilliant source of support and information’, and a great way to ‘get a lot of advice and suggestions’.

If you have the care of a child with a child protection order, you can also contact the foster care association in your state or territory. These associations sometimes also help grandparent and kinship carers who have the care of a child without a child protection order. 

Video Grandparent carers: support groups

Download video   29.4mb
In this short video, grandparents decribe what they get out of being part of a support group. They say it has helped them to meet other grandparents in similar situations and to share stories and tips. A family support worker talks about the support available to grandparents through support groups and family support workers. 
 
Another way to meet other people in a similar situation to you is through our online forum for grandparents and kinship carers.

Australia-wide services

Carer Gateway
This Australian Government website has information about services and support for carers. Look for information on the website, use the service finder or call the national helpline:

  • Phone: 1800 422 737
  • Hours: 8 am-6 pm, Monday-Friday

Department of Human Services – Grandparent Advisers
Grandparent advisers can give you information about payments and support services for grandparent and kinship carers. They can also refer you to community service providers in your area. Call the Grandparent Adviser Line:

  • Phone: 1800 245 965
  • TTY:  1800 810 586 (for callers with hearing or speech impairment)

Department of Human Services – Support for non-parent carers
You can use this webpage to find out about the government payments and benefits you can get when you’re a full-time grandparent or kinship carer.

Family Relationships Advice Line
This national telephone service can provide information and advice on family relationships, including parenting arrangements after separation.

  • Phone: 1800 050 321
  • Hours: 8 am-8 pm, Monday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm Saturday (local time), except national public holidays

State and territory services

Australian Capital Territory
Marymead – Grandparents ACT and Region
This organisation supports grandparents raising grandchildren. It offers information and runs group meetings.

New South Wales
Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat (NSW) 
This community organisation provides a free telephone advice and advocacy service for the carers of Aboriginal children – phone 1800 888 698. It also helps carers to start support groups.

Centacare Southwest NSW (Wagga Wagga) – Grandparents ‘doing it tough’
Grandparents ‘Doing it Tough’ offers a monthly support group for grandparents caring for or seeking access to their grandchildren. The group offers understanding and friendship, shared experiences and knowledge, social activities, support and education and guest speakers.

Central Coast Family Support
This service supports grandparents in the Central Coast region who have full-time care of and responsibility for their grandchildren. The service runs camps, picnics and seminars, and offers one-on-one family support, professional help, referral and counselling.

Connecting Carers NSW 
This organisation provides training, information and support groups for kinship carers.

Council on the Ageing NSW (COTA NSW) – Grandparent support groups
COTA is a non-government organisation representing people aged over 50 years in New South Wales. This link takes you to a list of support groups for grandparent carers.

Mirabel Foundation
The Mirabel Foundation helps children who are orphaned or abandoned because of parental illicit drug use and who are now in the care of extended family. Mirabel runs kinship carer support groups in New South Wales and Victoria.

Samaritans Kinship Care (Grandparents as Parents) 
This service is run by the Samaritans in the Newcastle, Hunter and Manning areas of New South Wales. It provides support groups and information for kinship carers.

Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Co-operative 
This organisation runs programs and support groups for grandparent and kinship carers in the Blue Mountains and western Sydney. Read the Centre’s Kinnections resource kit for useful information relevant to all kinship carers in NSW.

Northern Territory
Carer Community – About care in the NT
This website has information and practical advice for kinship or foster carers in the Northern Territory. You can also download the Carers Handbook.

Queensland
Grandparents Information Queensland
 
This website has information about support groups and other services for grandparent carers across Queensland.

Queensland Government – Foster and kinship care
This government website has useful information for grandparent and kinship carers in Queensland, including the Foster and kinship care handbook. You can also call the Foster and kinship care support line for parenting tips, information and counselling after hours:

  • Phone: 1300 729 309
  • Hours: 5 pm-11:30 pm, Monday-Friday; 7 am-11:30 pm, weekends

South Australia
Anglicare SA 
This agency provides support and information in Southern Adelaide. Phone (08) 8131 3480.

Grandparents for Grandchildren SA
This community service organisation provides a range of services to grandparents who are worried about the welfare of their grandchildren. Grandparents for Grandchildren also supports grandparents by providing practical and emotional support and referral services.

Helping Hand New Aged Care 
This program provides training and support groups for grandparent carers in the northern and western regions of Adelaide.

Tasmania
Department of Health and Human Services – Grandparents and relatives caring for children
Support is available for grandparents and other relatives caring for children in Tasmania. Contact Gateway Services to find services in your area – phone 1800 171 233.

Victoria
Bethany – Kinship care 
This organisation provides support groups and advice for kinship carers in south-west Victoria.

Grandparents Victoria
This is a support and advocacy network for grandparents in Victoria.

Kinship Carers Victoria
This organisation provides information and support to kinship carers in Victoria. Its Kinship carer’s handbook has useful information for grandparent and kinship carers and a list of support groups and services throughout Victoria.

Mirabel Foundation
The Mirabel Foundation helps children who are orphaned or abandoned because of parental illicit drug use and who are now in the care of extended family. Mirabel runs kinship carer support groups in New South Wales and Victoria.

Relationships Australia Victoria 
This organisation offers a range of relationship support services including counselling and relationship skills courses.

Western Australia
Wanslea Grandcare 
This agency provides information and support to grandparent carers in Perth and southern Western Australia.

 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 18-04-2016
  • Acknowledgements This article was developed in collaboration with Tina Napier, Kinship Care Regional Project Coordinator, Springwood Neighbourhood Centre Co-operative.