Kinship Care Matters
June 13, 2011
There are an estimated 200,000 children being raised by grandparents and other family relatives (kinship carers) in the UK. Many of these kinship carers struggle with significant extra cost, disruption to their own family life, and experience a deep sense of grief and sadness at the situation they have been placed in, through no fault of their own.
I have put together a number of cases drawn from some of family and friends carers who have contact me for advice and support.
All of the cases are true – many are happening right now. Only names and other identifying information have been changed to protect those involved.
Margaret, aged 62 has looking after her 5 grandchildren, age 13, 10, 7, 6 and 4 for the last 14 months due to issues of alcohol and drug misuse within the parental home. Margaret loves her grandchildren a great deal but struggles to accept the loss of her role as ‘grandparent’ to her grandchildren. Margaret, who underwent surgery for breast cancer 2 years ago lies in bed at night fretting she will die before the children reach the age of 18 and that the children will end up in care. She knows that families in care are often broken up and suffer from being separated from their siblings.
Laura, age 23 has been caring for her 4 year old nephew Jason for the last 10 months due parental neglect and emotional abuse. Laura is a 2nd Year student undertaking her Degree. She works part-time but finds it hard taking care of Jason because of her course commitments and a lack of childcare facilities that she can afford. Laura has become stressed and anxious about her ability to parent Jason as he is sometimes aggressive towards her. Laura is now contemplating giving up her education as she cannot afford to look after Jason and continue with her studies.
Sinead, age 36 has been looking after her 10 year old niece, Erin for almost a year. Erin, who is subject to an Interim Care Order was removed from the parental home by Social Services because of alcohol and drug related issues. Erin displays very difficult and challenging behaviour which Sinead finds hard to deal with. Sinead has been instructed by Social Services to apply for a Residence Order so she can gain parental responsibility of Erin. Sinead, who has 3 children of her own fears if she applies for a Residence Order that Erin will not receive the help and therapeutic support she so urgently needs.
Heather, aged 55 has been looking after her two grandsons, Andrew age 9 and Paul age 6 for the last 3 months. Heather finds it hard caring for Andrew and Paul because of their behaviour. Andrew and Paul have 5 siblings living in foster care who they see for 2 hours each week. Andrew in particular feels very alone and wants his brothers and sisters to come live with him and his grandmother. Heather feels she would be unable to look after all 7 grandchildren and is trying her best to keep Andrew and Paul within the family so they don’t end up in care.
Jane, aged 59 has been looking after her 3 grandchildren, age 6, 3 and 2 for the last 18 months. Prior to her grandchildren coming to live with her, the children were living between two different foster placements. Jane, who is a member of the Travelling Community struggles financially to make ends meet. Her oldest grandchild recently started school but is not doing as well as she should be for her age. Jane cannot read or write and worries as her grandchildren get older she will not be able to help them with their schooling and that the children will lag behind.
Karla, age 32 has been looking after her niece Shauna age 3 for the last 7 months. Shauna, who is on the Child Protection Register and subject to an Interim Care Order was removed from her mother because of neglect and emotional abuse. Karla is currently undergoing a kinship care fostering assessment and because of this she receives financial support from Social Services to help in the care and upbringing of Shauna. Karla, however, has yet to receive help with items such as nappies, outings or household equipment such as a bed for Shauna. Karla, who left her job to look after Shauna is finding it hard to make ends meet.
Claire, age 52 agreed to look after her two grandchildren, aged 2 and 4 when her daughter arrived to her home in the early hours of the morning stressed and unable to cope. Claire accepted responsibility for the children as a temporary measure until her daughter was in a better position to look after the children. 9½ years later and Claire is still looking after her grandchildren full-time. Claire has not heard from her daughter in 4 years.
Amy, age 6 years has been living with her aunt, Joan for 2½ years due to parental abuse. When Amy first came to live with Joan she was quiet and withdrawn. Joan, who has no children of her own gave up her job so she could look after Amy full-time. Joan applied for a Residence Order so she could obtain parental responsibility and plan for Amy’s long-term care. 2½ years on and Joan is only now receiving Child Benefit and has a legal bill of £5,800. This is having a significant effect on them as they often struggle financially.
Lucy, age 12 and Cadan age 9 have been living with their great aunt Maureen for 4 years due to physical violence within their parental home. When Lucy and Cadan first came to live with Maureen they found it hard to settle and constantly fought with each other. Both children wet the bed and Cadan used to pack up all his belongings before going to school in the morning because he felt insecure and confused about what was going on. 4 years on and Lucy and Cadan are both doing well and are extremely close. Cadan no longer packs his belongings and neither of the children wet the bed. Maureen loves the children like they were her own and wants the best for them.
Yvonne, age 15 has been living with her uncle for 3 years. Prior to living with her uncle Yvonne spent 2 months in foster care. Up until coming to live with her uncle Yvonne had missed a lot of school. She was behind in Maths and English and had problems making friendships with other children in her class. Today Yvonne is a grade A student, receiving 9As and 1B in her school exams. She is also a class representative for her Year.
Everyday family and friends carers solve new problems and make it through challenging times to raise their relative’s children. That is what kinship care is all about!