Research Data

Grandparents Matter: Optimising grandparent connections with their grandchildren after child protection concerns


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Grandparents Matter: Optimising grandparent connections with their grandchildren after child protection concerns
Date Record Created
Date Record Modified
Date Coverage
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Time Period
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Geospatial Location
  • Bendigo, Victoria, Australia
  • Adelaide, South Australia
  • Perth, Western Australia
  • Townsville, Queensland, Australia
  1. Type: full

    Limited available literature explores the experiences of grandparents after child protection intervention. This partnerhsip research between James Cook University, Fin(WA), FIN (Qld- Townsville) and Act for Kids explored how grandparent–grandchild contact can be optimised after child-safety concerns in the family home.

    The community partners and social work researchers collaborated throughout the project. The community partners provided guidance and feedback on the research question and processes. They promoted the research within their organisation, networks and client groups, reviewed and contributed to the data analysis and findings, and were involved in drafting and reviewing manuscripts and blogs for dissemination.

    The research question posed was: What are the ways that the inclusion of grandparents can be optimised in child-protection intervention, out-of-home care and related services? The primary research aim was to document the narratives, perceptions and recommendations of participants, and contribute to current knowledge and practice. Semi-structured open-ended interviewquestions explored and identified ways to optimise the inclusion of grandparents in child-protection/out-of-home care/kinship care. Grandparents were primarily recruited for the study, although other groups were included in order to maximise researchers’ understanding. The research was approved through the university Human Ethics Committe.

    The final sample (n=77) included participants from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. A total of thirty-nine interviews were undertaken in 2016; these consisted of twenty-eight individual interviews, three couple interviews and seven focus group interviews. The interviews took place face to face or over the telephone, utilising an interview guide. Interviews were undertaken by three members of the research collaboration.

    Participants contributed from various perspectives. The sample consisted of 51 grandparents, six foster carers (nonfamily), 12 parents, and eight workers. The grandparent sample consisted of 46 grandmothers  and five grandfathers. In total, 26 participants in the study identified as Aboriginal Australian and one participant identified as Torres Strait Islander.

    The following data is stored in the secure data section of the Tropical Data Hub (TDH) archive. The interview guides are available for download from the Data link below.

    1. Interview guides
    2. Transcripts of individual and focus group interviews
    3. Recordings of interviews
    4. Codes for Analysis


  2. Type: note

    Data consists of 3 zip files containing the data analysis (8 MS Word files), interview guides (6 MS Word files) and the interview recordings and transcripts (54 MS Word files and 31 audio files (MP3 and 1 MPEG-4)).

    MS Word documents have also been saved in PDF format and stored in similarly named zip files for preservation purposes.

Related Publications
  1. Gair, Susan, Zuchowski, Ines, Munns, Lynn, Thorpe, Ros, and Henderson, Debbie (2018) Grandparents matter: optimizing grandparents' involvement after child safety concerns. Child and Family Social Work, 23 (4). pp. 684-692
    Across Australia and internationally, growing numbers of grandparents are becoming primary carers for grandchildren, both within and outside of formal state care arrangements. Underlying factors include family breakdown, family circumstances where parents are unable to care for their children, or where there are child safety concerns. Some grandparents report a pattern of initially providing care for grandchildren but then experiencing reduced or lost contact that sometimes is not restored, in turn impacting ongoing relationships with grandchildren. A prevailing concern is the disproportional numbers of Aboriginal children in state care in all Australian states. Reported here are findings from a recent partnership research project focused on optimizing grandparent contact and ongoing relationships with grandchildren after child safety concerns. Qualitative in‐depth interviews and focus groups were conducted with 77 participants. Findings revealed grandparents yearned to maintain a significant role in grandchildren's lives after child safety issues emerged, however, they often felt powerless, unsupported, and sidelined from decision‐making in the best interests of their grandchildren. Participants made strong recommendations for more inclusive processes
  2. Zuchowski, Ines, Gair, Susan, Henderson, Debbie, and Thorpe, Ros (2018) Convenient yet neglected: the role of grandparent kinship carers. British Journal of Social Work. (In Press)
    Grandparents are increasingly involved in the care and protection of grandchildren. The qualitative Australian study reported here explored how contact between grandparents and their grandchildren could be optimised after child safety concerns. Interviews and focus groups with 77 participants were undertaken in 2016. In total, 51 grandparents and aunties in grand parenting roles, 12 parents, 6 foster carers and 8 child protection workers participated in this study. Of the 51 participants in grandparent roles, 20 were kinship carers. This article specifically reports on emerging findings regarding grandparents as kinship carers. Key findings reveal that many grandparents were willing to step into the carer role and many wanted to stay connected to grandchildren, however overall, they received little support. Findings identified the stresses and the fragility of the care arrangements and that at times providing kinship care could endanger carers. Overall, findings point to a perceived notion of kinship care implemented as a cost-effective alternative to foster care that leaves grandparents without the required support and resources. It is recommended here that grandparents receive greater recognition as kinship carers, and that child protection systems increase family-inclusive practices that provide better support and resources to kinship carers.
  3. Grandparents must be included in decisions about children in out-of-home care. The Conversation, 10 October 2017
    Open Access
  4. Gair, S., Zuchowski, I., Henderson, D., Thorpe, R.,& Munns, L.(2019). Grandparents battle to be key stakeholders in protecting grandchildren. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work (accepted for publication)
    Grandparents are increasingly involved in the care of grandchildren, including after child protection intervention. A recent Australian qualitative research partnership explored how relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren could be optimised after child safety concerns. Interviews and focus groups were undertaken with 77 participants, including 51 grandparents, 12 parents, 6 foster carers and 8 child and family workers. Emerging themes reported here focus on the role of grandparents, and their perceptions of, and interactions with, the child protection system. Overall, findings identify that grandparents wanted to help safeguard their grandchildren but many encountered an adversarial child protection system that left them feeling powerless, fearful and unimportant. Aboriginal participants reiterated that child protection workers needed to better understand how maintaining kinship networks provided a protective factor for Aboriginal children, and that grandparents were key stakeholders in their grandchildren’s lives. The findings from this study affirm the value and role of grandparents and highlight the need for implemented family-inclusive child protection practice within and beyond the Australian context.
  5. Gair, S.; Zuchowski, I., Thorpe, R., Henderson, D, & Munns, L., (2019). ‘In the Firing Line’: Grandparent Carers at Risk of Family Violence. Journal of Family Violence (online early)
    Increasingly,children deemed to be at risk of harm are being placed in kincare,most often with grandparents. Factors triggering the removal of children from their parents can include family breakdown, child neglect, substance misuse, poverty and family violence. Equally, these factors can result in children becoming disconnected from extended family. A prevailing concern in Australia is the over-representation of Aboriginal children in child protection services, and disrupted connections to their family and culture. The primary aim of a recent qualitative study was to optimise grandparent-grandchild connectedness after child safety concerns. Interviews and focus groups were conducted with a total of 77 participants. Grandparents were the primary sample recruited, however smaller numbers of workers, parents and foster carers contributed to the study. Discussed here are themes emerging from the qualitative data that pointed to grandparents being at greater risk of intrafamilial violence than previously may have been recognised after they step in to care for grandchildren. Recommendations from this study include a call for increased culturally and historically-informed practice approaches that take account of the interconnected nature of violence in families.
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Technical metadata
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  1. Managed by: A/Prof Susan Gair , , Division of Tropical Environments & Societies, Social Work
  2. Managed by: Dr Ines Zuchowski , , Social Work
Primary Contact
A/Prof Susan Gair,
(no information)
  1. Emeritus Professor Ros Thorpe: Family Inclusion Network Queensland (Townsville) Inc.
  2. Ms Debbie Henderson: Family Inclusion Network Western Australia
  3. Ms Renee McAllister, Act For Kids
Fields of Research
  1. 1607 - Social Work (1607)
Socio-Economic Objective
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  1. grandparent
  2. child protection
  3. kinship care
  4. social work
  5. grandchildren
  6. foster carer
  7. parent
Research Activity
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Research Themes
People and Societies in the Tropics
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License - Other
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Access Rights/Conditions
Dataset contains confidential or sensitive information. No access to data is permitted. Contact data manager for more information.
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Data Location
Online Locations
  1. (Data File, Public)
Stored At
Interview guides, transcripts, recordings and codes for analysis are stored in the secure data section of the Tropical Data Hub (TDH) archive - eResearch Centre, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia. The interview guides are available for download from the link provided.
Zuchowski, I.; Gair, S. (2018). Grandparents Matter: Optimising grandparent connections with their grandchildren after child protection concerns. James Cook University. (dataset). 0aae4e67cfac2103caed58c3d0aeccce