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.
It’s up to you to decide whether 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.
Grandparent and kinship carers: tips for getting started
When you’re a new carer, there’s a lot to organise. 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.
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 good to contact all the ones that might be able to help you.
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 the child 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.
Also consider the child’s mental health and make sure they can talk to someone they trust about how they’re feeling. If you’re worried about the child, 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 their Medicare card. Ask your GP 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. You can ask your local council or local support agencies like Vinnies or Salvation Army to help you with new or used clothing, furniture and payments for families in need.
Think about child care and school
Child care might be important for you if you’re still working or if you want to take a break each week. For a school-age child, you’ll need to think about enrolling the child at school and after-school care.
Tell people what you need
Case workers, courts, schools, GPs 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 yourself and the child. It might help to make a list of what you and your child need before speaking with each person.
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.
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. It’s OK to ask a friend or family member to help with this.
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 grandparent and kinship 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.
Look into respite
Taking a break is good for you, your family and your child. It gives you the chance to recharge and look after 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 go to a weekly exercise class, meet up with friends or have a weekend away. Some carer families 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 about respite options in your local area, you can contact:
- your local council
- Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737, Monday to Friday 8 am-5 pm
- Carers Australia on 1800 242 636.
Join a support group
Grandparent and kinship carers say that support groups are a great source of support, information and advice.
You can find support groups for grandparent and kinship carers all over Australia. Call the Services Australia Grandparent Advisers Line on 1800 245 965 to find out about support groups in your area.
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.
You might like to download our printable guide to being a grandparent or kinship carer (PDF: 4.84mb). It has essential information on looking after children in your care and looking after yourself, including tips on support groups. We also offer a service provider guide to supporting grandparent and kinship carers (PDF: 3.58mb).