Seniors stepping in to raise grandchildren

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Increasing numbers of Australian children are being raised by their grandparents, who are dipping into their retirement funds or returning to the workforce to fund their new responsibilities.

According to a University of Adelaide study, grandparents are stepping in to raise their grandchildren when their own children are unable to care for them, due to death, serious accidents, drug abuse, domestic violence or incarceration.

The study, being undertaken by Masters of Psychology (Clinical) student Emer Dunne, reveals both costs and benefits for the grandparents and grandchildren.

"In most cases, grandparents are doing this out of love as a result of the death of their children, or because they can see their own children being caught in a cycle of drug abuse and domestic violence which impacts on the grandchildren," Ms Dunne says.

Australia-wide, at least 35,000 children are now being cared for primarily by their grandparents.

Rather than resenting the responsibility, grandparents are reaping many positive rewards from the experience, but they desperately need more support, Ms Dunne says.

"There are limited support networks and resources that grandparents can draw on to help raise their grandchildren and many of them are struggling. Finances are an issue and some are extending their working life to support their grandchildren.

"Government subsidies are available if the courts have awarded formal care to the grandparents. However, in the majority of cases, the decision to raise their grandchildren is voluntary. This adds a lot of financial pressure, despite the rewards for both sides."

Ms Dunne says that research shows that most grandparents provide a stable environment where children feel secure and benefit from regular meals, a good education and contact with their extended family.

"It is very important that grandchildren still have a connection with their family because this is a big advantage in the long term. Breaking family ties is not a good thing."

But grandparents need additional support in the form of finances, more resources and training.

"We're raising children in a different world today and what worked 30 years ago may not apply now. Grandparents need some help as well as recognition."

Ms Dunne will address a forum at South Australia's Parliament House on 7 June about this issue.

Ms Dunne's study, which is due for completion later this year, is being supervised by Dr Lisa Kettler, a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Adelaide.

More South Australian grandparents are being sought to take part in the study. They must be the primary carer of their grandchildren to qualify for inclusion. For details, phone Emer Dunne on (08) 8303 6472 Monday-Thursdays 5pm-8pm, or weekends 11am-5pm.


Contact Details

Dr Lisa Kettler
School of Psychology
University of Adelaide
Business: (08) 8313 5737

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762