How much do grandparents matter?
A James Cook University researcher is looking for participants to help share experiences about involuntary lost contact between grandparents and their grandchildren - and how to help fix it.
JCU researcher Associate Professor Susan Gair is conducting research in partnership with Act for Kids, Family Inclusion Network (FIN) Townsville and FIN Western Australia to help grandparents stay in contact with grandchildren after child protection concerns.
Dr Gair said the study is seeking to explore how grandparent-grandchild contact can be improved, after a 2013 JCU study revealed severe impacts on grandparents’ health, mental health and wellbeing after disrupted or denied contact with their grandchildren, often after family breakdown and intervention by child protection services.
The new study will build on those findings. The pilot findings have been published recently in Australian Social Work and Children Australia.
“The role of grandparents as primary carers for grandchildren has been well documented,” Dr Gair said.
“But times of disrupted or denied grandchild-grandparent relationships has attracted little attention.”
Dr Gair said she thought a concerning aspect from the pilot study findings was that many participants mentioned child protection intervention as a factor in their estrangement from grandchildren in one way or another.
“Some participants in the pilot study identified lost contact as causing grandparents grief, depression and huge anxiety, while others identified lost contact as a form of abuse and denied rights, contributing to lost intergenerational relationships. Several Indigenous participants spoke of lost cultural knowledge.”
Dr Gair said grandparents identified contact with their grandchildren as extremely important.
“This study will extend our previous findings, with a focus on people’s contact with child protection agencies or concerns, and their experiences from there,” she said.
“We would like to hear from parents, grandparents, foster carers and child protection workers willing to come forward to tell their story about grandparent-grandchild lost contact after child protection concerns - and how to improve it.”
Confidential interviews are being conducted now.