The majority of our clients are not part of the traditional ‘child placement’ system. Most have taken over the role of primary carers of their grandchildren through private arrangements for myriad reasons. They have become the lynch-pin in their family unit, often in a multi-generational caring role. They navigate the legal, medical and education systems using support services and networks, with GFGSA playing an important role.
Whereas foster and kinship carers are registered and recognised by the Department for Child Protection (DCP) and have access to case workers. GFGSA grandparents remain autonomous, self-reliant and usually, ‘off the record’.
They have identified a problem or a need not being met within their family unit, and rather than waiting for Child Protection intervention, assumed parental responsibilities for their grandchildren. They act as custodians of the children, keeping them safe and part of an extended family, connected to their family history and identity. GFGSA’s development and implementation of the Informal Relative Caregiver’s Statutory Declaration has been of substantial benefit in this area.
Many of these grandparents fear that the involvement of government agencies may see their grandchildren removed from the family home, and as such seek out GFGSA as an independent support organisation.
Our client base is varied, primarily consisting of:
Custodial grandparents, (some with DCP placed grandchildren seeking support or referrals for their issues);
Sentinel grandparents, those who are unable to assume sole responsibility for their grandchildren but whose presence ensure the child’s needs are being met; and
Alienated grandparents, those who are denied contact with their grandchildren.
Our client list is almost entirely independent of any other official records. Where there is a peripheral overlap it is because GFGSA is providing a level of assistance unavailable to custodial DCP grandparents from other agencies and is unique in its delivery. Our number of interstate enquiries is growing as other agencies close their doors and our ‘brand’ is now more widely recognised Australia-wide.
Grandparents come to GFGSA for many reasons. We are now widely recognised as the ‘go to’ people. Our resource and referral directories are researched, constantly updated and effective. We support and encourage grandparents through every stage of their journey. We liaise, advocate and source information and assistance for our clients. We promote a holistic support service, encouraging grandparents to develop support networks and self-care and follow-up where necessary.
We are continuing to develop an education and information aspect to our service, thus becoming more proactive, leading to the establishment of more GFGSA Villages particularly in the outer suburbs and regional nodes through our Mobile Outreach Service. Many of our clients are regional and we are often asked to attend or facilitate information forums/seminars in those areas.
Our organisation is looking at future-proofing, predicting trends and cultivating a sustainable business plan that will continue to meet the needs of this growing family model.
We see ourselves as relevant, effective and professional. We have exceeded our goals in relation to developing workable, applicable protocols and procedures and are officially recognised by Government as the peak body for Grandparents and Kinship Carers in South Australia.