Michael Whitehead (Manager, Ryde Family Support Service): The grandparent carer support group is for grandparents who have the primary control of their grandchildren. And these grandchildren may come to them in one form or another which is usually traumatic, whatever that form may be. So we find that an essential part of how they survive is having the support group.
Margaret (grandmother of one): The first thing I would recommend is to find a group like the one I’m involved with here. Because the support that’s received from other grandparents is just fantastic. We exchange stories, we exchange hints about what we can do. I think the most important thing is to get a support group. Enjoy your grandchild, and if you’re having problems, talk to somebody.
Michael: You might be surprised to find that your situation is not uncommon, and that someone else has been in that situation and they can help you. And that’s what we find here at our support group. Somebody here will come up with a problem and somebody else in the group will say, well, I’ve experienced that and this is what we did. And this is who we contacted.
Rae (grandmother of 2): I think in the first place, because we were having so much drama with court ... and you feel when you join it, you think ‘Oh, I’m on my own here, I’m the only one’. But you’re not, by a long shot. And just to sit down and hear other people and to find some people who are a lot worse off sort of helps you too, and helps you to hear other people talk about their problems. We get a lot of advice from each other and a lot of suggestions, and that’s great.
Michael: I’ve been fortunate to have the experience of running a great support group for grandparents. It’s the connection with other grandparents who have been through the same situation. Their advice you can’t get anywhere else, and it’s free, you know. It’s great advice. They’ve been through it themselves; they know what the pitfalls are. They know what the problems are.
Rae: We have people come in from DOCS or the police, different organisations, and they let us know what we can do, what help we can get. And sometimes we don’t have anybody, we just all sit around and talk, and have a good time. But it’s very supportive. We used to once a year meet with the grandparents and the grandkids. And it gave them all an opportunity to see that they weren’t on their own – that there were others around in the same predicament. You know, it’s good for the kids as well as for the grandparents.
Michael: Generally in their location there should be a support organisation that they can go to. They would get a family support worker appointed for them. The family support worker would help them through some of these situations that they find themselves in. So that’s what happens here. I run the support group, but they can also have access to a family support worker, they can sit down with them and discuss their problems and see what’s available in the area. It’s sort of a combination I guess – they have the support group on one hand and they have an individual worker on the other hand.
Margaret: Whatever I needed, there was somebody here. Even when it’s matters of going to court, Michael Whitehead who runs this place, has been there by my side. He’s helped me through every situation and encouraged me and he’s been very supportive of both myself and Joel.