Meet the grandparents who have to start the cycle of child-rearing once again
PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 October 2011
ISOLATION and loneliness are just some of the emotions described by grandparents who have once again become sole carers to their grandchildren, and who go unnoticed in society.
Most grandparents reach retirement and achieve a sense of freedom, but for some the cycle of child-rearing starts all over again.
These devoted grandparents often have to step in when their own children have gone to prison, have died, or are not fit to care for their children anymore.
This is where a new support group in Weston steps in, Grandparent-carers Reaching Around North Somerset (GRANS), which is based in Oldmixon Primary School and aims to bring together the new-parent grandparents who need support, advice or just someone to talk to. Some of the members have shared their expereinces with The Mercury in the hope to reach others. Some information has been removed because of the senstive nature of the content.
GRANS member Sharon, aged 54, of the Coronation, Weston is a single parent to her two grandsons, aged five and 10. The mother of three had to go through a long and painful process to claim back her grandchildren once they were put into care in 2007.
She said: “My grandchildren were in care for 10 months. I wanted to get them out but it was very difficult. I had to go through doctors, have hair strand tests and I was in and out of court.”
Sharon has had guardianship for her grandsons for the last two years and then enrolled them into Oldmixon Primary school, which is how she got involved in the group.
She said: “It’s great having someone you can talk to, when so much is going on in your life. There are thousands of us who are out there and hopefully we can get more involved.”
The dedicated grandmother has now had to give up the job she loved, at the Winter Gardens, to fully support her grandchildren. Sharon said: “I had my youngest grandson just before he turned two and I did not want to leave him with anybody, I wanted to fully support them.
“It’s quite challenging as my eldest may have behavioural problems or learning difficulties, which is still being figured out and has been going on for four years.
“I just try to get on with it, I have no choice. It is hard and I’m only human. But there are people like me and people older than me who do this.”
Most parents rely on fellow parents to help them through difficult times, by sharing advice and experiences, but grandparents who become carers are often left without this resource.
Fiona McShane, parent support advisor at Oldmixon primary said: “Our school became aware that there is an ever-increasing number of grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren full-time. As there is so little support available for this easily-overlooked group we decided to do something about it”
Some of these gracious grandparents have to take on the responsibility of being a carer while dealing with loss, behaviour problems of their grandchildren and some often have to fight for the right to provide a home for their own family.
Chrissie, aged 48, of Brompton Road, Weston and her husband Phil, aged 65, had to gain a court order to have their eight-year-old granddaughter live with them, when their daughter was no longer able to look after her.
She said: “It was a horrendous process, one is your daughter and one is your granddaughter. Its difficult doing this all over again, but I would not change things for the world. She keeps us on our toes and keeps us young.
“She is happy and doing well in school. She is tying to bury the past, which will take her a long time, but she will get there.”
Chrissie feels very passionate about the group and believes the GRANS group offers a much-needed amount of support.
She said: “At first you feel a little bit resentful for the parents because they are getting on with their lives and we are tucking them into bed and taking them to school, but we can talk about that at the meetings.
“It’s a group of honest people where you can share your feelings, and you find out these people are struggling as much as we are.”
Chrissie said she and her husband feel fortunate in many ways because they have had a lot of help from their support worker, but know from time at the group, others are not so lucky.
One of these grandparents who has had this problem is Yvonne, aged 55, of the Coronation, Weston. She and her husband John, aged 57, care for their seven-year-old granddaughter, who has lived with them almost all of her life.
She said: “I felt very hurt and angry at the time because when she was placed with me we got dumped by the social services and I had no where to go or turn to. There was absolutely no contact with social services after the court order was done.”
She said: “They told me my granddaughter could stay with me or they would step in and put her up for adoption. Ever since she was born she was with me, so I was fortunate, in the way that she has never known any different.”
But despite the fact that there has been less adjustment than others in Yvonne’s household, she still admitted it is hard to get back on the long road of parenting, which is why she feels the group is extremely important.
She said: “In the beginning I felt very isolated and you feel like you cannot turn to anyone else.
“I’m happy enough but its still hard at times when you think you’re that much older and you should be living your own life but you’re still running up to school.
“The group is great for us because we realise it has not just happened to us but other people too, so we are the ones making friends, instead of just the grandchildren.”
The GRANS group meets on the last Thursday of every month in term time and their next meeting will be November 24. To find out more call Fiona McShane on 01934 812879.