In an ideal world Kerry Batten and his wife Sue would be enjoying their retirement and taking life a little easier. Instead they are raising their son's two children and only just managing financially.
Kerry and Sue have had their grandchildren, now aged 15 and 16, in their care for 10 years. The Battens both receive the pension and a Work and Income benefit for the children. Kerry says they'd be lucky if the benefit was enough to cover the children's food bill. Sue still works because the family needs the extra income.
But they are adamant that they wouldn't change a thing. "We'd do it all over again," says Kerry. "It's family, it's what you do."
The Battens' situation isn't uncommon. Kerry, coordinator for the Hamilton division of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG), says there are thousands of people around the country in similar circumstances.
"We have more than 100 people on our books in Hamilton and they are just the tip of the iceberg," said Kerry. GRG has more than 500 members nationwide. Kerry wants grandparents - or other family members - raising children to be aware of the services and support network GRG offers.
GRG offers new members a comprehensive handbook that deals with all the issues they may face in their new role. Members also receive a monthly newsletter full of humour and relevant articles and can attend regular meetings where they can share information and access support. Kerry is working on holding family picnic days and coffee mornings.
Where needed, Kerry can help direct grandparents to the appropriate support agencies and services.
He says the task of taking on full-time care of grandchildren is often fraught with issues. The financial cost of taking on grandchildren can be a problem in itself. However, often the children are traumatised, having come from an unstable background, so grandparents are faced with behavioural concerns that can be daunting to deal with.
A non-profit organisation, GRG Hamilton is run on a shoestring budget. However, Kerry said the group was often contacted by organisations with spare tickets to events that were passed on to group members.
GRG was set up 14 years ago by Diane Vivian after she took over the care of her young, troubled grandchildren. When she went in search of support she found there was none, so she set about forming a support group. The initial group grew into a nationwide organisation with more than 50 support groups from Northland to the deep South.