THERE are few times in life when you will come across two people who are as genuinely selfless in the face of enormous adversity as Wagga grandparents Colleen and Donald Beale.
Colleen and Donald, both in their 60s, have put their lives on hold and opened their home to three of their daughter’s five children.
Despite Colleen and Donald’s best efforts to help their daughter beat her addictions through rehabilitation and counselling, the 37-year-old remains trapped in a life plagued by drug use, alcohol abuse and stints in prison.
“She is an alcoholic and has been abusing drugs and alcohol since she was 14,” Colleen said.
“We have tried to get her the help she needs, but at the end of the day she has to make the decision to help herself and she hasn’t.”
Tragically, their eldest grandchild – the first of the three children to come into their care – passed away from the degenerative condition Juvenile Huntington’s Disease when she was just 15.
The inspiring pair is currently raising Toby and Thomas, who both attend Tolland Public School.
Both Thomas and Toby are mildly affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a pattern of mental and physical defects that can develop in a fetus when high levels of alcohol are consumed during pregnancy.
While raising their grandchildren was never something Colleen and Donald had envisaged their retired life would entail, the incredible duo said it is an ongoing commitment they are willing to make.
“These are our grandchildren after all and we want them to have this life; we could never turn our backs on them,” she said.
“Obviously things changed a lot for us when we took on Llana and then Toby and Thomas.
“I had to give up my job much earlier than I expected, we can’t come and go as we please, our focus is back on things like getting the kids to school and we find ourselves doing thing like lining up at Centrelink.
“Basically it is like a game of Monopoly… You are going around and around but you don’t not ever pass go.”
Colleen was quick to dismiss suggestion a generational gap would add additional strain in the Beale household.
“A lot of people assume the generational difference would make things harder, but for us it doesn’t,” she said.
“We keep things very simple because, really, kids are kids.
“We are satisfied in the knowledge that the kids are safe in bed, have a healthy, stable routine and a chance at a better future.”
Colleen believes the invaluable support services in Wagga have made a profound impact on their financial, emotional and physical ability to care for the three children.
“The services here are fantastic,” she said.
“It is so important that people access all the services that are available to them.”
Colleen is encouraging grandparents who are raising children in Wagga and surrounding towns to ensure they are not silently fighting an isolated battle.
She is urging all grandparents caring for their grandchildren to consider joining Centacare’s monthly Grandparents Doing It Tough Support Group which meets in the Wagga City Library on the first Friday of each month from 10.15am to 12.30pm in the Community Learning Space.
The group offers understanding, friendship, shared experiences and knowledge, social activities, parenting strategies, support, education and guest speakers.
For more information about the support group, contact Lyn Reilly at Centacare South West NSW on 02 6923 3888.