Quite often our greatest strengths come from the difficult times we experience in life. This can be said for Department of Human Services Grandparent Adviser Kalev Pank.
Kalev’s parents fled Estonia during the Second World War and settled in Australia in the 1950s after spending six years in transit.
When Kalev was six years old, his grandparents took over full-time care of him and his younger sister for a period of time.
While at the time Kalev didn’t understand the full circumstances of his family situation, he does remember the feelings of uncertainty.
This childhood experience, combined with 33 years in the public service, gives Kalev a unique understanding he now brings to his important and challenging role of Grandparent Adviser.
Calls to the Grandparent Adviser line are growing every month, and Kalev is often the first point of contact for grandparent and non-parent carers in New South Wales looking for guidance.
“From first-hand experience, I know how important financial, community and social connections are to the stability of a family,” said Kalev.
“The grandparent and non-parent carers I speak with often find themselves in the caring role suddenly and under very difficult circumstances and because of this, can be very reluctant or unsure about seeking support.
“While my primary role is to help people in these situations navigate the financial support available through the department, equally important is listening to their story and providing them with connections to social supports available in the wider community.”
As well as assisting around 140 new grandparent and non-parent carers one-on-one each month, Kalev travels around New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory to meet with community service providers, state government agencies and to present at grandparent support events.
“Building connections with other organisations is a crucial part of what Grandparent Advisers do. The carers we support often face complex challenges and have contact with multiple agencies and organisations, so it’s important we work together to share expertise, information about our services, and identify issues within the community,” said Kalev.
“In the last few months I’ve attended several community group meetings, a family and community services expo and most recently presented to over 120 grandparent carers at the Grand Matters Forum for Central Coast Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
“Very few of these carers were aware of Grandparent Advisers and the forum really opened their eyes to the support available to them.
“The Grandparent Adviser role is the most challenging role I’ve had in my career so far, but when a grandparent tells you that you’ve changed their life, it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Kalev is one of eight Grandparent Advisers across Australia. To speak with a Grandparent Adviser in your state or territory call 1800 245 965.
Read more about Grandparent Advisers.