TENEKA Knuckey believes her life would be very different if not for her grandmother.
The 18-year-old Halls Head resident, who is in her first year of a combined criminology and science degree at university, and her two brothers have been raised by their grandmother Kathy Knuckey.
“I’d never be where I am today if not for her,” she said.
“I think it was definitely good I didn’t grow up with my dad or mum as I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities.”
Mrs Knuckey has raised Teneka’s oldest brother Harley (20) since he was two and a half because of her daughter’s drug and alcohol problems.
“She just used to leave them (with me) for three to four days,” she said.
“They were always with me.”
There are more than 5000 grandcarers in WA but they are not eligible for the same Centrelink payments and subsidies as foster carers.
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Their mother gave custody of Harley and his younger brother Joseph (16) to Mrs Knuckey as their fathers were not involved but she had to fight Teneka’s father for custody.
Teneka said it was not until she grew older she realised her family situation was not the norm and struggled a lot as a teenager.
“As I got older, I learnt more about what a family was,” she said.
“It was difficult seeing other kids with their parents.
“It makes you think, ‘Was I not good enough?’”
Mrs Knuckey has always allowed the children to see their parents and they are close to other family members.
She has experienced her own problems; struggling with medical issues, being unable to be as available for her other children and grandchildren, and receiving very little government support, but found Wanslea’s grandcarers support group beneficial.
“You realise afterwards you’re not the only one,” she said.
“We try to have things for the kids so they know they’re not the only ones being looked after by their grandparents.
“If not for us (grandcarers), they would have nowhere to go and wouldn’t see their family.”
Mrs Knuckey said the government needed to make changes as outlined by Wanslea’s A Fairer Future for Grandchildren campaign, which includes providing an ongoing allowance similar to foster care subsidy payments.
“It’ll be too late for me by the time it comes through but if we can help the next generation of grandparent carers it will be worth it,” she said.
Teneka said her “powerhouse” grandmother had sacrificed so much for her and her siblings and echoed calls for recognition and support, especially as grandcarers were providing children with safer lives with greater opportunities.
“They’re going through a lot more than what most parents have gone through,” she said.
“You’re living with your grandparents for a better reason.”