• CEO Grandparents Raising Grandchilden Brad Clark and partner Ilona Cater.
  • Jenferie Bryce-Chapman

Stepping up: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ empowers New Zealand’s grandparent caregivers

The team at Channel Magazine spoke to Brad Clark, long time North Shore resident and new chief executive of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust NZ (GRG), to learn more about this organisation that does such amazing work across the country.
Headquartered in Birkenhead, GRG is embarking on a new journey with Brad as chief executive. Bringing experience in marketing, communications and fundraising, his motivation is seeing people grow and thrive through the generosity of others. With career highlights including leading American Express’s partnership of the America’s Cup, heading the Takapuna Beach Business Association, sponsorship manager for the New Zealand Warriors, general manager fundraising and marketing for CanTeen, and seven plus years as CEO of the Starship Foundation, GRG is in good hands.

The GRG board, headed by Pru Etcheverry, a leader in the for-purpose sector (and North Shore resident) is excited about the appointment of their new chief executive this year. Pru says, “Brad’s passion for GRG and our mahi across New Zealand was evident. GRG has been supporting grandparents raising their mokopuna for over 23 years.” And she is quick to acknowledge that “it’s tough out there. With the cost-of-living crisis and other challenges, more grandparents need help for more complex needs. GRG is seeking greater awareness of its work, and diversification in its funding model.”

Brad has been clear in his ambition for GRG to achieve more awareness, and through that more funding, for a growing need in New Zealand. A big realisation, he says, is the impact of methamphetamine, or P-addiction. "This is the leading cause for grandparents and grandchildren needing support from GRG. Our members have experienced significant family breakdown due to death, illness, abuse or neglect, but addiction is the biggest factor and it’s devastating to see children and young people caught up in this. Thank goodness for the GRG team, our specialist advocates, and the network of about 40 support group coordinators and coffee group facilitators across Aotearoa.

“We have this amazing group of volunteers who are the life blood of GRG; they are grandparents giving back. We need more of them, and the means to support them better.”

A critical part of GRG's service delivery is its dedicated specialised advocates. These are experienced and knowledgeable team members offering tailored financial and community outreach advocacy to help grandparents and whānau caregivers access benefit entitlements such as the Unsupported Child’s Benefit (UCB), and Orphan’s Benefit, and help them navigate the family court system or to find help through community support agency partners.

Based in the heart of the North Shore, GRG is the only New Zealand organisation dedicated to providing information, advice, and general and specialised advocacy for full-time grandparent caregivers who find themselves in unexpected situations. Established in 1999, GRG provides a lifeline for grandparents and whānau caregivers who selflessly step in to parent a second time around.

GRG is justifiably proud of the impact it makes, touching the lives of over 10,000 caregivers providing loving and safe homes for over 16,000 children and youth. Within the Rodney/North Shore district, GRG supports over 500 caregivers raising around 1,000 children and young people.

A key initiative is GRG’s 'SALT' (Simply Acquired and Learned Techniques™) workshop – a free one-day programme for grandparents and whānau caregivers. The workshop provides practical insights into the impact of past trauma on children and young people. For carers, it offers strategies to help parent children displaying challenging behaviour and to help manage traumatised kids feel safe, secure, and able to respond from a place of reason rather than fear, anxiety or anger.

GRG offers respite for caregivers like North Shore resident, Janferié a grandmother raising three grandchildren. GRG funded her three mokopuna to attend camp.

“Wow! I felt like I had won the lottery – five days without children. I love my grandchildren, but as a 75-year-old grandparent they can be tiring, so a few days of no noise or having to get meals sorted, was blissful.”

Despite facing personal health challenges, Janferié found solace and rejuvenation. As her grandchildren embarked on five days of adventure at The Y Camp Adair, Janferié was able to recharge, cherishing moments of reflection and relaxation.

“I found just relaxing at home in blissful quietness was great therapy. I could sleep in and prepare meals when I wanted. I blobbed and watched TV with a glass of wine and pottered around doing chores. I read, I didn’t have to clear up, there was no arguing or sorting out whose turn it was. It was peaceful and a luxury to just have some time out from looking after others, knowing my grandchildren were safe and happy thanks to GRG. I felt so privileged.”

Sharing Janferié’s story, Brad talked about the emotional strain of caring for grandchildren. Meeting Janferié, who in her working life was a chief executive, and hearing her story was impactful and helped me understand more about the family dynamics. It also broke down any stereotypes – GRG caregiver families are from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds. And while there is love and joy in nurturing and supporting grandchildren needing a safe home, there are feelings of loss and grief. Grandparents are also more likely to be grappling with health issues, and their own relationship challenges which unfortunately, are all too common.

GRG is committed to providing for grandparent and whānau caregiver families in need, but as their new CEO understands all too well, “with increasing membership and demands, our focus is to continue to do what we do well, but to meet growing need; we need to find additional funding. We will do this by building awareness, investing in successful fundraising, and by attracting corporate support. There will be businesses keen to align with our cause and leverage the impact they create. Great partnerships work both ways and I know we have a lot to offer in a partnership,” says Brad.

GRG is keen to acknowledge ongoing support from like-minded groups such as Foster Hope, the Kindness Collective, Good Bitches Baking, and funding from the likes of Foundation North, Lotteries, Zonta District 16, the One Percent Collective, and other generous trusts and foundations who understand and support its mission.

"With such amazing work done over the last 23+ years, GRG has a strong base to build on. Founder Di Vivian, former CEO Katie Bundle, and so many others have worked hard to get GRG where it is today. My job is to support the team, build capabilities and capacity, spread the word, and grow revenue to fund growing demand. These are challenging goals, but by building public support, and partnerships with organisations like Channel Magazine our future is bright!"

Need help?

If you are a grandparent or whānau caregiver raising grandchildren or children not born to you fulltime and need advice or support, call 0800 GRANDS (0800 472 637) or email office@grg.org.nz to learn more about joining the GRG family - membership is free!

Want to help?

Visit the GRG website grg.org.nz/donate, to support your community, or reach out to talk more about how you can help - contact brad@grg.org.nz