Developing a research agenda with grandparent carers: Identifying a need, stakeholders, and getting the question right

Grandparents who care full time for their grandchildren
Wednesday 25 July, 1400 – 1420


Denise Gray
Wanslea Family Services

Grandparents caring full-time for their grandchildren is the fastest growing form of out-of-home care for Australian children. Grandparents usually take on this role at a time of family crisis, often linked to substance use, mental illness, domestic violence, parent’s death or incarceration.
Grandparent carers face a range of economic, social and health challenges in caring for their grandchildren, with the legal and financial implications being their greatest burden. Many alter their employment and retirement arrangements to meet the care needs of their grandchildren. Yet what matters most to grandparent carers is a question that often has no answer: what will happen to my grandchildren if something happens to me? Grandparent carers provide a significant social and economic benefit to society – and their individual grandchildren – in undertaking this role. While their contribution is gradually being recognized by government and service providers through a range of initiatives, there are significant gaps both in what is known about and provided to this group.
Wanslea is a well-established not-for-profit human services organisation in Western Australia; it is the state’s largest service provider to grandparents who have the informal, full-time care of their grandchildren. This first part of the symposium will outline the current state of knowledge and research regarding grandparent carers, and how a research agenda with and for this group was identified. The experiences and key support needs of grandparent carers will be identified, and existing and recommended responses to these from policy, practice and research perspectives will be discussed.