“When the going gets tough I go to Grandma and Grandads.”
My husband and I saw this printed on a tee shirt one day and smiled, and bought one. Little did we know that we would become, some 16 months later, one of the 300,000 plus Kinship Carers in the UK caring for a relatives child. Most of which are Grandparents.
There are lots of circumstances that lead children to being placed with Grandparents or other family members, family breakdown, physical abuse, substance dependency, neglect, mental heath issues or as in our case the sudden death of a parent and the inability of the other to cope. However the path to becoming a Kinship Carer in not an easy one. They are faced with a variety of orders, fostering, residency, supervision, special guardianship, to name a few, and sometimes the prospect of adoption.
After all we only want to keep our relative in the family, give them a secure and safe place where they feel loved, and will thrive. No, the path is very stressful. Dealing with Police, Social Services, Family Courts, Criminal Courts, Solicitors, and of course birth parents, who although may have been prosecuted for cruelty or neglect or both, fight to have their child back. As we all know sometimes they do go back, only to be mistreated again or worse…
Our Grandchild lost a fantastic Father when he was 5 months old, came to us at 18 months old the first time, and was returned to Mother at 3. A second chance for her. A traumatic experience for us but more so for the child. At 6 our Grandchild came back to us. Failure had happened again. Once again we were back into the process of securing our Grandchild’s future. While going through the whole process there was no one we knew in our position. Who could understand how we felt? Who could we talk to? I turned to the internet and found a Group in Worcester. Kinship Carers UK. I spoke to Enza Smith the charities founder, I poured out my inner most feelings. She understood she had stood where I was standing. She calmed me. We travelled to her group in Worcester and met other Kinship Carers. Our Grandchild came with us and played with others who were also not living with Mummy or Daddy. We vowed that if we were successful within the courts system, we would start a support group for the Staffordshire and Wolverhampton area.
Two years ago we obtained a Special Guardianship order. Our now 9 year old Grandchild’s future is secure with us and continues to have supervised contact with Mother.
Colin and I held the first meeting of The Staffordshire and Wolverhampton Kinship Carers UK group in January 2015. Our meetings enable people to talk over situations, get advice on financial matters, help in understanding the legal proceedings and receive guidance on behavioural issues. We also have the opportunity to join other groups in workshops on related matters, but most importantly we give emotional support to each other at a complicated and stressful times in their lives while they are going through and after the process to keep their “Kinkids” within the family.