Sue Erben adores her granddaughter, four year old Jayde.
And despite their close and loving relationship Sue is grieving, grieving for the lost gift of being “just a grandma”.
“I am the full time carer for Jayde which means I have essentially been robbed of being a grandma, and that really is a grief process for me,” Sue said.
Known officially as ‘kinship carers’ people like Sue step in when their sons or daughters are suffering mental health, drug or alcohol issues and cannot look after their children.
“My husband Karl and I were downsizing when Jayde was born and looking forward to travelling,” she said.
“When Jayde came along, the house we were in was not suitable for a young child so we had to find another one and in order to do this we have had to access Karl’s superannuation to assist us.
“This wasn’t in our budget or life plan at all.”
According to Sue, kinship carers were often “bullied” by the child protection system.
“We are sometimes seen as part of the problem due to our adult children having drug or mental health issues, however neither of these issues discriminates between rich and poor or levels of intelligence,” Sue said.
“I started a Facebook group ‘Australian Grandparent/Kinship Carers’ nearly three years ago due to the lack of support for informal carers and we now have more than 350 members Australia-wide and are continuing to grow.
“Due to the many horror stories I was reading I also started a petition seven months ago to get help and recognition for kinship carers and now have 1,679 signatures, many of these supporters have shared their own frustrations at not being recognised.”
Sue said the cost of raising a grandchild or in many instances grandchildren can be substantially more than raising your own child.
“Many of these children need counselling and special health care needs including drug dependence therapy, occupational therapy and extra educational help,” she said.
“I have personally been told that I wouldn’t be in this situation if I had raised my daughter properly in the first place and it is very frustrating to hear that, mental health issues do not discriminate.
“The various legal costs are also huge when you are putting in place measures to protect the grandchild.
“A parliamentary report was tabled on January 16 and the Ombudsman is looking into the issues surrounding kinship carer payments but as yet nothing seems to be happening.”
For more information on kinship carers or to contact Sue Erben visit the Facebook page “Australian Grandparent/Kinship Carers”.