“The grandparents and great-grandparents get huge love and joy from their grandchildren, but costs are great”. Liz Gordon, researcher.
At the heart of a new report commissioned by Grandparents Raising Grandchildren is the unconditional love of grandparents caring for their grandchildren when the children’s parents can’t but that this unconditional love comes at a cost to the grandparent’s health and income.
The research identified 1300 children cared for by grandparents due to one or more of six factors:
- parental drug addiction (45 per cent),
- domestic violence (42 per cent),
- family breakdown (41 per cent),
- neglect (41 per cent),
- parent unable to cope (40 per cent)
- and/or alcohol abuse (26 per cent).
Researcher Liz Gordon captured in her study the financial strain of caring for grandchildren, who often had a range of physical and psychological needs.
The study showed most grandparents had seen their incomes drop as a result of caring for grandchildren, and had been forced to change or leave work, retire or reduce their hours to look after them. Two-thirds of the families were living on or below the poverty line.
The report also identified 74 percent of those surveyed having some health problems. “They often have increasing health problems, they end up spending their retirement nest egg on their grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, their life plans have changed unexpectedly.”
WHAT THE GRANDPARENTS SAY:
“It changed the whole pattern and lifestyle. Now had to take up all the responsibilities of a parent. We are great grandparents.”
“I stepped down from being a principal.”
“Our moko have significant issues where they need an adult at home 24/7. One has an intellectual disability and the other attends kura but is ADHD behaviour and possibly bipolar.”
“I wouldn’t swap it for the world. It might be a hard road but to know my four grandchildren and three great grandchildren did not get separate living conditions has made it worthwhile. Being able to come into a whanau that they knew made the transition a lot less stressful on the children.”
“I used to work two hours per night seven nights a week on top of my 40 hours a week however since having my grandson I have given the night job up due to no childcare available.”
“We’re unable to afford to do things with the boys outside of the home.”
“We had to purchase new furniture for her, clothes etc and pay large legal bills which have seriously drained our resources. We cannot deny her anything and go without ourselves in order to do that.”
“When I applied for UCB [Unsupported Child Benefit] I got together all my paper work and parenting court orders. I waited for a reply and got a phone call to say I was not entitled to the benefit for the children. I had to write to [Government Minister] Paula Bennett so I could receive it. My case manager was so embarrassed that I had been turned down. The staff can be very rude and make you feel like you are bludging off them when it’s government money and not their own.”
“CYF was supposed to be there during her childhood but wasn’t.”
“His mother was killed in a motor accident and nobody wanted him.”