Benalla kinship carers are receiving support from Anglicare Victoria's local programs.By Kaitlin Thals
When Lee Harrison’s daughter died she left behind something very special.
Benalla’s Ms Harrison has been a kinship carer for her grandson, Kaleb Lissenden, 11, for eight years.
He initially came to Ms Harrison through child protection services when her daughter could not care for him due to battling a cocktail of drugs and mental illness at the time.
Ms Harrison, 60, worked hard to maintain the relationship between herself, her daughter and her grandson.
When her daughter died six years ago from a brain aneurism, Ms Harrison was left with Kaleb, who had a whole list of mental issues and physical disabilities.
‘‘When the children come they come in hard and fast, but then the support is gone very quickly,’’ Ms Harrison said.
‘‘Particularly with kinship care, you think ‘I’ve got this kid and I don’t know what my entitlements are’.’’
Ms Harrison said most children in this situation had extreme behavioural disorders, emotional disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and separation issues.
‘‘Then, when they get to school, they are often misinterpreted and you often find yourself with children at home more of the time than at school,’’ she said.
‘‘Unless a child has clear diagnosed disabilities — which mine happens to — they’re not entitled to things like an aide. They find themselves often in an ostracised situation, which is no-one’s fault, but nothing is set-up for them.’’
Ms Harrison said becoming a kinship carer was daunting and life was suddenly ‘‘extremely different’’.
‘‘My whole life stopped, as I knew it,’’ she said.
‘‘Very often you’re parenting second time around and you’re heading to the twilight years. Your energy levels are much lower and very often you’ve got a child that is far more extreme.’’
For full story see this week’s Ensign.
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