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New helpline for grandparents who look after kids

Feb 01 2012

Grandparents who have taken over the care of their grandchildren have a new place to turn for help and advice.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development will spend $100,000 a year on a new helpline run by the Parent Support Services Society of B.C.

Grandparents or other relatives raising a family member's child will be able to call the line and speak with someone or get answers to questions by email.

"It's huge," said Carol Ross, the society's executive director.

"[Grandparents] have been asking for, lobbying for, nudging for a navigation line that has a live person on the end for years — so they're thrilled."

Ross said the non-profit society has hired two skilled advocates to help people trying to navigate ministry and legal channels, obtain financial assistance, get respite care or deal with school, medical and other issues.

"I have a feeling it will be all over the map, because grandparents cope with anything that you can imagine." she said.

Ross expects the new service will prevent some of the tragic situations that occurred in the past because grandparents simply did not know where to turn for help.

In some cases, grandparents lost their grandchildren into government care because they were unaware of the financial assistance available to them.

In other cases, grandparents were able to keep some, but not all, of their grandchildren.

"There are many heart-breaking stories just because people did not know that they were eligible for a particular support or a particular program," Ross said.

The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Line opened for business Tuesday at 604-558-4740 on the Lower Mainland or 1-855 474-9777 toll free anywhere in B.C. The service can also be reached by email at GRGline@

parentsupportbc.ca.

The helpline will operate five hours a day, Monday to Friday. The exact hours will vary, but callers can leave a voicemail message.

The ministry is also giving the society $10,000 to update a legal guide for grandparents.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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