LIKE a growing number of Northern Rivers grandparents, Cathy and Bruce Jamieson began caring for their grandchildren when their own child "went off the rails".
The Tweed Heads pair are legal carers for four grandchildren, aged 9-18, and Ms Jamieson said playing a parental role for the second time has been challenging.
"We had to sell the business and move, and we've lost lots of friends because we don't fit anymore," she said.
However, the hardest thing has been finding information and financial assistance.
Yesterday, Southern Cross University and University of NSW held a forum at Invercauld House in Lismore to identify ways to support a growing number of grandparents taking on the role of raising grandchildren.
The forum was attended by grandparents, policy makers, service providers and researchers from Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads.
"Our purpose today is to have a conversation about the issues that grandparents raising grandchildren navigate and the services and support groups available," Professor Anne Graham, director of the Centre for Children and Young People at SCU, said.
There are approximately 500 grandchildren on the Northern Rivers being raised by their grandparents and Dr Jan Backhouse, who spoke at the forum said that figure was proportionally high.
She said Centrelink should employ someone specifically to provide information and assistance to such grandparents.
"Centrelink does have (designated workers) in other areas but we don't have one here," she said.
"That would help because grandparents spend so much of their time trying to find out how to get support."
Dr Backhouse said while grandparents who cared full-time for their grandchildren faced many challenges, they also gained much.
"A lot ... have told me that it gives them a second chance to parent again," she said.
"Most wouldn't have it any other way."
500 children are cared for by grandparents in the Northern Rivers.
Many grandparents struggle to find information and assistance.
Researchers say Centrelink should employ someone to provide such information and assistance.
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