Kinship Carer Support Group

Profile – Leonie Lund

Leonie has been a volunteer facilitator with the Nelson Bay Kinship Care Support Group for the past 10 years.

She became a grandparent carer to her two grandsons when they were just 2 and 10 years old.

After taking on the full-time care of her grandsons, she retired from her job as a childcare worker. It was during this time she saw an ad about a formative meeting to set up a Grandparents as Parents Support Group.

“When I saw the ad I initially thought that I could help other carers because of my experience in child care but I soon found we all had something to bring to the group and it was such a great support network for me.

“The first group met at Lambton Anglican Church Hall and later moved to Charlestown. This was so successful that Samaritans decided to expand the groups across the region and I was asked to help set up the Nelson Bay group,” Leonie explained.

This group has now been running for ten years.

Grandparents and other family members who find themselves raising grandchildren, nieces, nephews or siblings can feel overwhelmed by this sudden change in circumstance. They are facing the new reality of perhaps putting their careers, retirement plans or travel dreams on hold indefinitely.

Leonie said kinship carers face unique challenges.

“For grandparents, they don’t have the energy levels they had when they raised their family and parenting has changed. They are cut off socially because their friends aren’t raising children and often the children have suffered grief, loss and trauma and this can present behavioural issues.

“This is why the support groups are so important. It’s a chance for carers to come together with people in the same position to share their stories and unload their feelings without fear of judgement. Carers also share information about children’s activities and services that they have found useful,” Leonie said.

Samaritans currently facilitates Kinship Care support groups in 10 locations across the region and is looking for volunteer facilitators to help support the Nelson Bay group as well as two new groups in Dungog and Kurri Kurri.

Leonie says the most important qualities a volunteer facilitator needs are to be empathetic and a good listener and to make people feel comfortable and welcome.

All volunteers receive ongoing training and support from Samaritans.

Nelson Bay Kinship Care Support Group meets at the Gan Gan Community Centre (Old Main Road, Anna Bay) from 10am – 12noon every Wednesday during school terms.

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a volunteer facilitator or attending the group meeting, please contact Samaritans Kinship Care Support Group Coordinator, Heather Robinson on 0429 914 553.