IT’S been 10 years since Mission Australia united with the Family Day Care Centre in East Nowra to run the Grandparents Raising Grandchild-ren program.
Grandparents recently united to share stories about their hardships and triumphs to celebrate the milestone.
Allan (70) and Sandra (71) Gamble from Gerringong know all too well what is involved in raising grandchildren.
“We have four children of our own, now aged 53, 50, 46 and 45,” Mrs Gamble said.
“Our grandchildren came to us at six and three years of age, and seven months and three months.
“We always said that we would work hard and semi-retire at about 45 years of age and then do a bit of travelling.”
Mrs Gamble said they had everything in place to get on the road.
“Just five weeks after moving from Sydney to Gerringong, our youngest daughter Nerida brought the two eldest grandchildren down to us as their mother [her sister] had disappeared,” she said.
“Another daughter arrived one night two weeks later and asked us to mind baby Kye while she moved house.
“She never came back.
“Kye was addicted to drugs because he was breastfed until he had been dropped off to us, so we had many weeks of sleepless nights and much anguish.”
Mrs Gamble said older brother Bobby suffered night terrors for a long time.
“Two years later when my husband called to see our daughter and her new baby Ebony, she asked if we could mind her until she moved but again she didn’t come to pick her up,” she said.
“We had seven in our family … this meant restructuring our lives.
“After about four years Allan became quite ill and went on a disability pension and I on a wife’s pension.”
Mrs Gamble said those early days were difficult because there was no moral or financial support.
“It was a very humbling experience for me having to ask for financial assistance and sometimes clothing and food from different charities, but it was necessary so I swallowed my pride,” she said.
“We eventually watched our old friends as they travelled and did all the things we were now unable to do but we couldn’t resent them as our grandchildren were very precious to us and raising them was the most important thing we were to do.
“We belong to our grandparents support group in Nowra. The moral support from the group is overwhelming and also invaluable.”
Mrs Gamble said the Mission Australia-run network is like an extended family.
“Every year for the past few years with the financial support of Mission Australia we have been able to have a weekend away at Murrumarrang Beach Resort. It is here where we bond as families.”
Mission Australia chief executive officer Catherine Yeomans said meeting and talking with grandparents helped her realise the critical role they played in supporting children.
“Last year Mission Australia operated 169 services just like this one [Grandparents Raising Grandchildren] for families and children that assisted 9425 families and a further 67,808 individuals,” Ms Yeomans said.
“In 2012 almost 41,000 children and young people across Australia were the subject of care and protection orders issued by child protection authorities.
“More than half of those placed in home-based care are with relatives.”