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Lost Contact: The impact on grandparents’ health and wellbeing of being separated from or denied access to their grandchildren. Implications for social work practice

For both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, the critical importance of maintaining family contact and intergenerational relationships for ongoing health and wellbeing is known. Equally, the psychological damage caused by severed family relationships is well documented. Through this community-university partnership research project, the lived experiences, narratives and perspectives of Queensland grandparents who had been separated from, had lost contact with, or were denied ongoing relationships with their grandchildren were explored. In this qualitative, exploratory study, the lived experiences of 21 Queensland grandparents were documented through in-depth interviews. The findings identified that disrupted or lost contact with grandchildren impacted grandparents’ health, mental health and wellbeing, and that some grandparents’ actions to safeguard grandchildren had resulted in damaged relationships with their adult children and denied contact with grandchildren. Further, a cycle of unpredictable lost and regained contact occurred for some families, including when grandparents had been carers for grandchildren. Grandparents in this study recommended that relationships between grandparents and grandchildren need to be highly valued and upheld, particularly after grandchildren came to the attention of child protection services. The findings were presented to peers, have been published in peer review journals, and have informed further research.

Susan Gair
James Cook University
AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers