Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Stu99

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Stu99


One day, Rose received a phone call from social services.
They asked her a question. Could she look after her grandchildren as their mother was unsafe?
“Yes,” she said, “of course!” Which grandparent wouldn’t?
She became a “kinship carer.” Years later, she’s still a kinship carer…

Great for the kids, but what about Rose?…

Had Rose been a foster carer in the employ of the local authority or a fostering agency she would, quite rightly, have received lots of support. Been she wasn’t. And she didn’t! Here’s a closer look:

Housing…

The problem was that Rose’s house was a little small. Her own children had left home years before. She had moved to a smaller place – she hadn’t needed the extra room…till now. And didn’t have the funds for anything bigger.

Foster care – the children would never have been placed in a home too small for them. If the match with the carers was right, the local Authority might pay for or financially support a more suitable home. I’ve even known local authorities help foster carers to move in order to serve the best interests of the children…

Health…

One of the children had attention problems (ADD) and the other was traumatised and displaying all kinds of concerning behaviours. Rose needed help to know how best to care for her granddaughters. She new nothing about ADD. She needed training.

Foster care – social services would have ensured that the local CAMHS service was alerted and the proper care and support put in place. Carers would receive training to inform them how best to care for the children. They would also have a social worker to talk to – sometimes all you need is a sympathetic listener!

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Costs…

The kids arrived in what they were wearing. No toys, no bedding, no clothes – just the shoes on their feet. Rose bought what they needed. To do so Rose got into debt.

Foster care – a grant would have been given to the foster carer to purchase the essentials for the children. And a regular fee to cover the ongoing costs

Contact…

Once a month, Rose takes the children for a contact visit to see their Mum, her daughter. This is extremely embarrassing and awkward and upsets everyone – the children, their mother and Rose. Rose is accused by her daughter of “kidnapping” her kids and suffers all kinds of verbal abuse and threats. Then she has to return home and help the children recover from the visit. But who’s looking after Rose?…

Foster care – a supervising social worker or support worker would normally supervise contact. If carers were expected to do it, they would receive training and regular supervision. Because of this they can maintain a professional distance from birth family members.

Support…

Rose was overwhelmed by the task she’d been asked to take on. She really had no choice. After all, these were her grandchildren. She didn’t sleep. She was exhausted. She felt very much alone and she felt she was failing. She couldn’t give up, but she struggled to keep going. But she did keep going. What choice did she have?….

Foster care – foster carers have a supervising social worker. They can refer on to other agencies for help. They can advise carers on matters that are new to them. They can arrange respite to give the carers an evening or a weekend off. They can provide training.

Change is needed…

So, a simple question remains: why are we treating kinship (family & friends) carers so differently from foster carers?

Grandparent carer...

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/lammeyer


They do the same job. They have as great a sense of obligation and love for the children – if not significantly more so. But we assume they have everything they need to cope. They don’t. In fact, many are really struggling. But they carry on, often at huge personal cost, for the sake of the children. This isn’t right. Change is needed.

Spend to save…

The State saves millions each year by NOT having to accommodate children because kinship carers step into the breach. But the cost is often too high for the carers. They struggle financially, they struggle emotionally, they live with huge stresses and they get ill. A little spending by the State to support these families, would yield a great return. It’s time for local authorities to fully recognise and support kinship care.

Final thought…

All this could be avoided by applying the same rights to kinship carers as we already do to foster carers. Why should being related mean you are left to struggle? It shouldn’t!

(Rose isn’t real – she’s a composite, based on real people and situations I’ve come across. She is not an extreme example.)

What do you think?

  • Do you agree that kinship carers need more support from the State? If not, why not?

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

Further information on kinship (or family & friends) care…

I have a fostering and kinship care resources page. Click here

  • 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…

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  © Jonny Matthew 2014