Grandparents raising grandchildren: towards recognition, respect and reward

Children Grandparents Kinship care Australia

Executive Summary: Grandparents have long played a major role in the lives of their children and grandchildren, with some providing extensive emotional, material and practical support. Since the last quarter of the 20th century in Australia as in many other countries, grandparent carers - the focus of this study - have become both politically organised and a focus of policy attention. The growing public visibility of grandparent carers reflects not only their political mobilisation but also the increasing reliance of child protection authorities on kinship care (mainly grandparent care). In 2012, almost 41,000 children and young people across Australia were the subject of care and protection orders issued by child protection authorities (AIHW 2013) and more than half of those placed in home-based care are with relatives or kin␣mainly grandparents␣rather than with non-related foster carers (AIHW 2013, Table A15). Thousands more grandparents are raising their grandchildren as a result of private family arrangements that may or may not be known to child protection authorities. Still another group of grandparents assume responsibility for their grandchildren following orders of the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court. Children are placed with grandparents because their parents are unwilling or unable to adequately care for their children. The reasons for placement include substantiated abuse or neglect, often associated with domestic violence and parental substance misuse and mental illness; and irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between children and parents.

This study of grandparents raising grandchildren draws on multiple sources of data. These include a literature review, analysis of ABS statistics including Census 2006, a survey of grandparent carers, interviews with Indigenous grandparents, and focus groups and interviews with policy makers and service providers. Grandparents from every Australian state and territory participated in the research: the 335 grandparents who participated in the survey were drawn from every state and the ACT; the twenty Indigenous grandparents who took part in interviews came from New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The fifty-five policy makers (drawn from Commonwealth, state and territory agencies) and service providers who participated in focus groups were from New South Wales, South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

Authors: Deborah Brennan, Bettina Cass, Saul Flaxman, Trish Hill, Bridget Jenkins, Marilyn McHugh, Christiane Purcal and kylie valentine.

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