Grandparents stepping up to care for children

MORE THAN 10,000 children are in the hands of their extended families, particularly their grandparents, yet state governments often treat them with the same scrutiny as a foster carer.

Grandparents who step to the front to care for their grandchildren full time, after children are left orphaned or without proper care must sacrifice their time, money and sometimes their hard-earned twilight years.

A Senate Committee looking into how these grandparents cope has been told by the Mirabel Foundation child advocates told the inquiry police would often break tragic news to them and deliver a child needing care at the same time.

Advocates estimate 10,000 children are with "kinship carers" - a term used for kids being looked after by their family when a parent able to properly care for them - but the figures do not include relaxed deals that do not involve the government.

Mirabel offers support to kinship carers in New South Wales and Victoria.

PeakCare offers the equivalent in Queensland.

PeakCare Executive director Lindsay Wegener said more families were taking on the role of foster carers with the belief it is more comfortable for the child.

"People have realised that kinship care is a preferred option for most children," Mr Wegener said.

"The support of families is to ensure those heavy-handed approaches (from the government) are used less often."

Mr Wegener said complications in how state governments deal with kinship carers means grandparents can often be forced to unnecessarily take full custody of a child as the only way to receive financial help.

"It would be much better for those arrangements to be made within a family and the family still receives financial assistance to care for the child," he said.

"It seems to be unnecessary for the state to intervene."

For some families, the best care could come from a variety of family members who take turns looking after the child.

"It's about extended family networks that care for and embrace children that belong to their community," he said.

The Senate is to deliver its report by September 30.


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