Grandparent carer...

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/lammeyer

In our last post on foster care, we lifted the lid on those who open their lives to other people’s children.

We also explored the nature of the sacrifice required from carers.
Many of the comments after the piece were from kinship carers – essentially those who foster children from their own extended family.

This got me thinking about the differences between foster care and kinship care. So I did some digging around. The results of this enquiry had me shocked…

 

Why kinship carers are heroes!…


Kinship carers are those who foster children, just like foster carers. The difference is that the children are part of their extended family. Usually.

They may be aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins of the child’s parent/s or even elder siblings – being related in some way is the only “qualification” for kinship caring. But there’s more to it than that…

 

Kinship costs…

When social services are alerted to the plight of children needing to be housed away from their parents, the first place they look is to extended family. This is sensible.

Though they may not know each other very well beforehand, at least the carer/s and child/ren may know of each other. Foster carers are strangers. Kinship carers are usually family. But there’s more…

Because the children can’t just move in. Many, though not all, potential kinship carers have to undergo a full and rigorous assessment and approval process first. In fact, they have to “qualify” in the same way that potential foster carers do.

There the similarity ends.

 

“Unsung heroes” because…

  • All change – kinship carers have a sense of obligation towards related children. This is completely understandable. They want to help. But this can weigh heavily. Their lives change. Not in a planned and deliberate way. But because tragedy dictates that there are related children who need their help.
  • No fire exit – foster carers work extremely hard to avoid the need for children to leave their care. But it happens. When things get tough and children cause persistent and challenging difficulties, foster carers can request that children move on. Kinship carers can do this too, in theory. But who could “reject” related children in this way? So they soldier on…
  • No back up – Foster carers can access respite care to give them a break. Kinship carers usually can’t. I’ve even heard of kinship carers say they were told that if they can’t cope, the children will be given to someone who can…
  • Self-help only – kinship carers get little or no support from social services once the children are placed. Having passed the approval process they are left to get on with it. Left to care for children who’ve suffered abuse, loss, trauma, etc. without any professional support to call on.
  • Out of pocket – foster carers get paid. Even when there are no children placed with them, they receive a retainer. This is right. After all caring for children is their job. Kinship carers rarely get any financial support. But their costs rise considerably. I have heard from carers whose caring obligations have meant having to reduce their working hours, or give up work altogether.
  • Out of pension – Some kinship carers have had to give up work later in their careers, sacrificing the most crucial period of their pension savings. Along with the added costs of child care, this leads some carers into significant financial need and can mean some of the most vulnerable children are left in uncertainty.

 

Final thought…

Of course, there’s more to it than this. I can’t do justice to the costs and delights of kinship care in a short blog post.

But it’s important to emphasise the huge hidden costs of stepping in to care for related children or the children of close friends.

Should those who do exactly the same job as foster carers be so disadvantaged when they save the state many millions of pounds each year? I don’t think so.

Look out for a future post on the joys of kinship care…

 

What do you think?

  • Should relatedness impose obligation?
  • Is there a place for the state to pay kinship carers in some way? Why? Why not?

Please let me know your thoughts…   Join in the conversation – Leave a comment below or click here.

 

Info on kinship care…

  • Find a U.K. based kinship carers’ Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/kinshipteddy
  • There are a couple of kinship carers’ websites, here:
    • The Family Rights Group helpline 0808 801 0366

 

Please support kinship carers…

 

Related posts…

 

Pass it on…

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(Written with grateful thanks to and with invaluable assistance from Deborah Burns and Karen Steele who responded to my last post on foster care.)