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  • Enza Smith MBE

Our lives turned upside down But it’s all worth it


In March 2015 my partner’s 2 ½ year old grandson was taken into hospital due to a suspicious injury. The mother was when subject to bail conditions. The Local Authority were at the hospital and explained that if my partner’s grandson was unable to come home with us then he would be taken into foster care.

We were faced with a difficult choice, we both worked full time, I had chosen not to have any children of my own and my partner has four grown adults. It took all of two minutes to make our decision this little boy was coming home with us.

He couldn’t speak, he had no social interaction skills, no nursery, he was not registered with a Dr or Dentist, he was still in nappies and very angry. We had our work cut out having never being in this position before, we only knew of the Local Authority to lean on for advice and support.

Me and my partner are both on minimum wage, we have worked all our lives with not much to show but we’re happy.

Our grandson is absolutely amazing, he is now six years old, he started nursery 1 ½ yearsbehind his peers he is now due to start Year 2 at school with an above average reading age.He’s kind, thoughtful but bossy, would I change him? Not one bit!

I have spent the past three and a half years. turning down praise and saying “’I’m only doing what anyone else would” or “well, what can you do, but to get on with it”. Well perhaps it’s time for the truth. We worked hard to make sure that our grandson had everything he neededin the three and half years, we have received one carrier bag of clothes from his mother and a pack of nappies from the father. The Local Authority never provided any financial support, however they did advise that I talk to the tax office about child benefit this resulted in us being further in debt.

Despite being asked to take our grandson home the assessment process only started a year after our grandson being in our care. We had decided to apply for a Special Guardianship Order, and on explaining to the Local Authority that we were unable to afford the court fees they agreed to fund this.

The Local Authority still advise that we supervise contact with the parents, they have regular meetings with us to check that our grandson is well cared for. We have also been advised both parents have parental responsibilities, if they are to turn up and demand our grandsonthen we are to ring the police. The police are able to keep our grandson at our residence for 72 hours, in the meantime, emergency court proceedings would take place, luckily this never happened as I know this is a risky strategy.

Just under a month ago (September 2018) I discovered Kinship Carers UK. Why is this charity not wider spread and given vital funding?! Why is it when people are in dire straits that they have to seek out independent people for advice?

I was under the impression that the Local Authority were the best people to speak to, but when you know no different, where do you turn? I have learnt that fostering and Kinship care are two completely different things, hats off to foster carers for what they do.

Why is the law so grey when it comes to Kinship Care, why is there no independent advice offered from the start? Me and my partner have struggled and we are past seeking financial support, but we do request for others not to be left to fend for themselves as we have. It has been a massive emotional and stressful roller-coaster.

It could have been an easier process if someone with a bit of authority actually cared as much about these children as you would your own.

I would like this to be heard by the press and local communities, Kinship Carers are becoming something of the norm which is a shame, what is more of a shame Kinship Carersare emotionally backed into a corner. Ask yourself, would you agree for a member of your family to be put into foster care if there was something you could do help, No! The conditions and practicalities come afterwards, that’s where you turn your life upside down as you’ve ever known it.

Where do I want my voice to be heard? Right here! Right now! Whoever reads my story, whoever is willing to listen, I started looking after a child who is not my own, under scrutiny, my life has not been my own, I have been screamed at, spat at, and kicked out at, and that’s not just the grandchild, but I have been given hugs, kisses, homemade presents which is something I will treasure forever, this has happened in spite of support not because of it, I was at breaking point when I discovered Kinship Carers UK, they need more manpower more coverage and above all to be listened to. In order to support the average joe going through something completely alien, hopefully not three years on but right from the very start when support is most needed.

How can people show their support?

It’s very simple, photo copy this story, and many others. Pass it on to your colleagues, neighbour, or even leave it on a table in the canteen. The main important thing that I have only recently found out is that I’m not on my own and I really hate to think of one person out there going through it, not knowing there’s light at the end.

It’s a tough ride and not talked about enough. Fostering is completely different from Kinship. Kinship Carers are treated differently but that’s because their voices have not been heard, and it’s a very grey area by law, something that us average joes don’t know much about, so if you could be so kind as to pass this message on to make our voice louder it would be much appreciated.

October 2018 we have finally been granted an SGO and it’s the best thing ever to happen to us.


Gemma your wish has been heard Thank you for sharing your story And we wish you both and you little one the very best


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