AS AN informal carer, Sue Erben explains the difficulties of taking on the responsibility to raise her grandchildren.
After her daughter became addicted to ice, Sue and her husband began caring for their granddaughter Jayde on an informal basis. This meant quitting her job and becoming a full time carer for the child.
But there was one catch; neither Sue nor her husband would be able to apply for government assistance due to the nature of the arrangement.
“The courts seemed to fight against us, time after time, the biological parents are given the chance to get clean and they’re given so many chances.
‘‘This can go on for years, and the child and their grandparent form a bond, it’s difficult after all that time to separate them again,” she said.
“If you’re on a pension and not going to work it’s difficult.
‘‘In the coming years Jayde is going to school, then comes the cost of school supplies, running her to and from school, and sport.
‘‘And why should she miss out on it all just because we can’t afford something.”
As someone who doesn’t technically have a child in care, Sue said she’s free to tell her story. But for others, they’re forced to suffer in silence.
“Other grandparents in this situation, they’re gagged. So they can’t talk about their experience, but I can, and someone has to,’’ she said.
“It’s at a crisis point; the best way to describe it is a silent epidemic.”
“Child Protection and the government employees are overworked; they can’t keep up with the number of kids. So we have case workers who are fresh out of uni — but we don’t fit in any books — we’re pretty left of field.”
Are you a kinship carer or a legal guardian for your grandchild?
It is really important for grandparents to understand the difference between being a ‘kinship carer’ and what a ‘legal guardian’ is, what it means to have an informal arrangement for care and what a formal arrangement with a child protection order is.
Ultimately it will affect the decisions the grandparent can make for the child and ultimately what financial benefits you may be able to access from the government and different services.
If you have to attend Children’s Court for your grandchild, or need some legal advice about how to formalise your care arrangements, phone Kathryn Hall at Brooks Hall Lawyers on 1300 074 182 at the office — Deniliquin, Hay, Albury and Yarrawonga — nearest to you for your free initial appointment.