My small words of wisdom by Julie.

julie blogMy small words of wisdom

By Julie
Kinship carer

My name is Julie and my husband and I live in a town outside Swansea, South Wales and we are kinship carers to our three grandchildren aged 10, 9 and 6. They have been living with us for five years. Only the youngest child is my natural granddaughter, the eldest two children are from their mother’s previous relationship but we consider them our grandchildren, especially when the choice was made for them to live with us. Though, I hardly call it a choice when the alternative for the children was foster care.

All three came to live with us in March 2010 following years of neglect. Both parents were taking drugs, had mental health issues and my son was also a victim of domestic abuse. All of which the children witnessed and as a result they all have severe emotional and behavioural issues. Of course, at that time, we were oblivious to the trials we were about to face. Sometimes I wonder whether the social workers should have informed us about the consequences of neglect, and the trials that were to come, however looking back, it was enough to cope with the upheaval in our lives.

Like most, we are in debt. Both my husband and I are in good but demanding jobs, but we now work part-time to meet the children’s needs. This in turn makes us worry for the future, especially our pensions. We’ve also lost thousands of pounds in furniture and other material items that we had to get rid of when the children moved in. Though there is absolutely no contest between furniture and my grandchildren!

stat webOver the past five years we’ve faced so many trials. They have included managing contact with all three families in the face of aggression from some, the children’s mental health issues (we feel we’ve had a crash course in child psychology and attachment) my sons mental health issues, our constant battle with local schools to try and get them to understand children’s mental health, and throughout this, trying to keep our marriage together.

Saying all of that, I know that compared to some kinship carers, we have been lucky. Call it a sixth sense, but we knew we were going to have issues with the children so we sought advice very early on from Grandparents Plus. We also found The Family Rights Group really useful and were blessed with two very good social workers and children’s court guardian. As a 95 statresult, when we were awarded Special Guardianship, we were able to ensure the court order contained on-going help and support that we were going to need in the long-term. This not only included financial support but the opportunity to attend training courses and ensured we had on-going support of a family therapist, on whom we can off-load our latest issues with the children, and our personal struggles to keep sane in the turmoil.

As great as that backing is, it can never prepare you for the turmoil, grief and stress that you face. However, throughout it all we try to find the positives. It has been wonderful and fulfilling to be able to instil in our eldest a love of reading, watch our middle child learn to accept a hug and feel loved, and see the youngest form a bond with us as parents. Plus as a result we are more in tune with the pop scene than any fifty something’s need to be.

PrintIt has been, and continues to be a huge learning curve for us and if we can only impart small words of wisdom, it would be to seek advice early. There are excellent resources on the internet. Join a support group or ring the Grandparents Plus Advice and Information line on 0300 123 7015. If we just relied on others to provide information we would, without doubt, be far worse off now.

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‘It’s no cruise around the Caribbean…’ By Linzi Foster-Nicholson

linzi blog pic‘It’s no cruise around the Caribbean…’

By Linzi Foster-Nicholson
Kinship carer

I am writing this in reply to my grandson Joshua Barlow, who recently wrote a blog, Putting the “Grand” in Grandparents’. I wanted to let him know that we are very proud of him and of everything he has achieved.

Josh was my first grandson and my partner and I were besotted with him from the very start. We had him as much as we could. We took him on holidays, spoiled him rotten and simply treasured the time we spent together.

My daughter had health issues and expected a lot from Josh. When he was nine she had twins and Josh had to grow up quickly and become their main carer. Having so much responsibility and pressure put on him at such a young age took its toll on his mental health as well as his physical health. So when he was 12 years-old he left home to stay with us permanently. It was a very different way of life to what we knew and it was a challenge shifting from a grandma role to a parent role.

Shifting from grandma to parent meant that I had to become the person who had to discipline Josh. Before, I had always been the person who Josh had fun with but all of a sudden I had to flex a little authority. Luckily he was well behaved and we all quickly adjusted and managed to find the right balance of discipline and fun.

I also found it really tough that I could no longer do things on a whim; instead I had to wait for the school holidays. My partner and I had always had a very busy social life, we loved a cruise and a night out but this had to all stop.  We struggled with social services and found the financial side of unexpectedly taking on a child difficult and so it brought around another big change. I had to go out and get a job. Actually, I had to get two as they needed to be part-time to ensure that they worked around my partners’ job and school pick-up times.

Six years on life for us is very different. We now have a special guardianship order for our twin grandchildren, who have been with us for four years. Our friends now have grandchildren too but on their own terms which means it can be tricky for them to understand the day-to-day problems we face.

GP+ 200,000 webJosh is in his last year of university and we are very proud of what he has achieved. His brother and sister look up to him and always look forward to him coming home. We had never thought that this would be our lives, but here we are, part of the 200,000 kinship carers raising children. It may not be a cruise around the Caribbean but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

If you can please support the great work that Grandparents Plus does. The photo above, shows us at their annual Celebration Day which we try and attend every year. It is one of the highlights of our summer and gives us the opportunity to meet other kinship carers.

 

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Putting the ‘Grand’ in Grandparents By Joshua Barlow

Josh blogPutting the ‘Grand’ in Grandparents

By Joshua Barlow
Young person brought up in kinship care

I remember when I was in my teens and I would tell people I lived with my grandparents. Some would ask why and some would make their own conclusions but the truth is that some people find it difficult to be parents.

In my case it was illness that affected my mum’s ability to bring me up, she had Chronic Kidney Disease and although she tried her best her health got in the way and I found myself setting up home at my grandparents.

It started with summer holidays. Once the bell rang to signal that the school year was over my home for the next six weeks became that of my grandmother’s. I had spent most of my youth here anyway; hiding under and behind the sofa, hiding under the stairs to scare people and curling up on the rug and falling asleep in front of the fire – with the cat of course.

So when I moved into the house in 2005 aged 12 I was already part of the fittings and fixtures and like a jigsaw piece I slotted into the bigger picture without much effort. I can only imagine how difficult and life changing it is for the grandparents themselves. In a heart beat they go from stuffing their grandchild’s hands with sweets behind their parent’s back, to being their primary carer. It was this shift in relationship that was the most noticeable change in my life. My grandparents and I found ourselves trying to change with the dynamic and adjusting to new rules. Things were no longer as easy as they once were.

My grandparents had to teach themselves how to bring up a child again. They had thought they had completed their parenting years, yet here they were with a teenage boy who was just hitting puberty. Although there was a shift in the rules all teething problems were quickly resolved and everything went smoothly.

GP+ 200,000 webI feel lucky and know that I had it a lot easier than some young people in kinship care. Currently there are over 200,000 grandparents or other family members (kinship carers) bringing up a child for reasons outside their control. These are the people who appear to have been forgotten.

 

 

GP STAT web picLike mental illness, kinship care is something we need to speak about. With seven in 10 kinship carers feeling isolated, stressed and depressed it’s about time that we stood up and gave the support to those who take on the role of a parent once again and do such wonderful jobs.

There are a variety of ways you can show your support. You can sign up to the #timetocare campaign, support the vital work of Grandparents Plus by giving a small donation or simply by giving a kinship carer you know a shoulder to lean on.

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“Go Grandparents Plus, Go!” By Janellen Redington

janellen web1blog1“Go Grandparents Plus, Go!”

By Janellen Redington
Kinship carer and future celebrity

The weekend was lost in a whirlwind of cleaning, washing, ironing and baking. We were preparing for the onslaught of numerous visitors on Monday for our monthly support group coffee morning, which we had delayed as Alex and Josh from Making cakes for coffee morning 2the BBC were coming to film us as part of the Grandparents Plus Lifeline appeal.

After putting a post on our Facebook Group inviting our members, we opened it up to the other groups. Our good friends from West Sussex decided to send a posse to join us and so we hosted our first ever cross county support group exchange!

tedI roped my husband and my daughter in, I was going to need all the help I could get as the number of attendees started to grow – who else was going to do the washing up? We had invited Kristopher the Travelling Ted as honorary guest because I know how much he loves my lemon drizzle cake.

The morning started as all mornings in this household do, in chaos. Children running about, tripping over each other and us, the dash for the bathroom and general haste to get us all up and breakfasted before 9am (OK it was 9.15 today). Then another rush to vacuum again – I don’t actually have OCD, but I do have two cats and a dog who moult as if I had a hundred lazing about on the carpets and rugs.

A quick run upstairs to reapply my lipstick and throw my head upside down in the vain hope my hair would gain a bit of ooommph, only left me breathless and dizzy. Despite being tantalising for some, is not a look I would recommend when opening the door to people you haven’t met before. I hadn’t frightened too many people off and soon the house was buzzing. Alex and Josh had arrived and were setting up in the front room. “It’s OK, today will be less intense than last Friday” Alex assured me “today is more like wildlife filming.” Yes Alex was planning on filming us grazing around the watering hole, more usually known as my dining room table.

Sam and Alana had brought more cakes, biscuits and lots of Grandparents Plus materials and Kristopher was dressed in his best Grandparents Plus T-shirt. Our situations are serious and so our conversation turned serious, we discussed a lot about what we would like to see happen, and how we could help to promote Grandparents Plus.

012Alex and Josh had been filming us all this time, ‘can you please pass that cake over again?’, ‘and again?’, ‘and maybe again?’ – yes even cake passing is an art that needs to be performed exactly. Poor Linda had to wait for her carrot cake, mouth drooling, as it was waved in front of her and retrieved three times. At one point I looked up and saw the camera being pointed at me through the back window, Alex and Josh had escaped the house and gained entry to the back garden.

The morning quickly moved into the afternoon. Vicki reminisced how our dear departed friend Laura would have loved today, the people, the cause, and most especially the cameras! Our guests began to depart, Josh and Alex first having managed to get all the shots that they needed – I am sure my derriere got in there again somewhere. Then everyone else felt it was okay to beat a hasty retreat from the chaos. I love them all, they made the morning a huge success. Vicki, her daughter and granddaughters stayed for a while afterwards to deconstruct the morning.

Would you do it again? I asked myself. Well yes, despite the shiny face, posterior shots, breathlessness and dizziness, I can say that without a doubt, I would do it again. I have met some truly wonderful people, I had an experience I will never forget, with stories to tell the grandchildren for years to come, and, I fervently hope, I have helped a cause close to my heart. Go Grandparents Plus, Go!

cake

Janellen has shared her favourite Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe which you can find here.

You can watch the Grandparents Plus BBC Lifeline Appeal here

You can keep up to date with the Appeal here.

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“Watch it as a family with tea and cake” by Pat Sansom

Pat blog“Watch it as a family with tea and cake”

By Pat Samson
Kinship carer

Being part of the Grandparents Plus BBC Lifeline Appeal has been a great experience. I was hesitant at first but was sure that I wanted to take part and support the vital work that the charity does.

Grandparents Plus has been extremely helpful to me and my husband Ivor. We first found out about them on holiday by another kinship carer and they have been our lifeline ever since. They have answered so many of our questions and are always there ready and waiting for more.

As filming day arrived I was shocked by how relaxed I was – no nerves at all! (It makes me think I should have had a career in TV.) The BBC team are lovely to work with and just put us all at ease, it was such a pleasant day. My grandchildren Holly and David had fun and are looking forward to their five minutes of fame.

Pat and familyAs a family we are just happy that we could help support Grandparents Plus in this way and raise the profile of kinship care. As the 14 December approaches the excitement is building and we are planning to watch it as a family with tea and cake.

It would mean a lot to us if you watched it too.

Many thanks

Pat & Ivor.

You can watch the Grandparents Plus BBC Lifeline Appeal here

You can keep up to date with the Appeal here.

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“It’s all for a worthwhile cause” by Janellen Redington

janellen web1blog1“It’s all for a worthwhile cause”

By Janellen Redington
Kinship Carer & future celebrity

If you have ever considered that TV presenting was glamorous, think again. I have just finished a full day of filming with the BBC for the Lifeline appeal in aid of Grandparents Plus and am exhausted. I guess we’ll be having a takeaway for dinner (again). Since having the grandchildren we have eaten more takeaway’s in the past two years than in the past 10 put together! But a day of filming on top of having the children doesn’t merit a measly meal deal, a full blown Chinese is on the cards – with wine and an early night!

The day had already started early, as the twins have learned to climb out of their cots this week, oh joy. The previous night I think Hugh and I had been upstairs to put them back to bed at least 5 times each. Also Finley had been unwell with some viral infection and spots – wasn’t he going to look nice on camera- and he was particularly grumpy and difficult! After rushing around getting everyone dressed and breakfasted the doorbell went, I already had butterflies, these instantly turned into dancing elephants in my tummy.

False alarm. Just as the adrenalin levels were beginning to normalise the doorbell goes again, it’s Josh the researcher, along with Alex the producer and their apprentice. Those elephants started to perform a whole dance routine within seconds. The ‘crew’ were very nice and we started with a chat and a look around the house, some drinks and histrionics from Finley. Luckily my eldest daughter, Lucy, was on hand to help look after the children.

Hot, bothered and with my hastily applied makeup sliding down my face, Alex starts to set up the camera. I am rigged up with a radio mike, tucked gracefully into my knickers.  Now I feel like a weather forecaster, shame I don’t look like one. My hair is scooped up behind my ears and my shining face is, well, left shiny, no make-up artists for me.

Janellen's kidsI am asked to play with the children, so there I am on hands and knees, huge backside on camera, crawling around the living room. Finley decides he has to sit on my lap so I can’t see or get to the girls. Lilly thinks the camera is wonderful and keeps running up to it to look at it and Chloe is totally intrigued by the microphone, which she proceeds to squeeze in her hands, ohhh she squeals in delight. Chloe does a puzzle as Lilly and I roll a ball between each other. We managed 45 minutes of ‘playing’.

It’s lunch time for the kids, and the Alex suggests filming me making their lunch.  It’s not very Nigella Lawson, but I can rustle up their usual fare (which honestly isn’t very exciting at all, they’re 3 and 2!). So there I am getting hotter by the second, bumping into the island unit – why? It’s been there for two years! I am then asked to stand and watch them eat? I think to myself ‘wow this is going to be riveting viewing!’

Now fed, the twins needed a nap, I tuck the girls in and leave the room, it took three takes just to get me looking in the room! How difficult can ‘looking’ be I ask myself?

Then downstairs to tidy up the toys, ‘this will make a good shot’ – oh great, more shots of my backside as I crawl around the floor picking up toys. Be prepared for 2 minutes of viewing my derriere from various angles, some of which my husband hasn’t even seen I’m sure, and I’m no Kim Kardashian, hot and sweaty as I was.

blog2 imageFinally it’s time to do ‘the interview’ . The lights are rigged up, chairs are moved, the clock is taken off the wall (ticking!), and my daughter has to leave to go to work so the 18 year old apprentice (4 weeks into the job) is left to babysit an unwell 3 year old. We finish the interview and it’s time to get the girls up, chance for another shot, this time of Finley playing in his room.

As the ‘crew’ tidy up Alex tells me how good the children were, and the dog – who’d been locked in the front room all day – and that he thought it all went very well. Really? I glance in the hall mirror and see a dishevelled, shiny, old woman looking back at me – nothing like Nigella Lawson or Kim Kardashian at all.

Never mind, my posterior is going to be on the BBC! I have a bottle of wine chilling and it’s all for a worthwhile cause, after all there is only so much cringing you can do!

You can watch the Grandparents Plus BBC Lifeline Appeal here

You can keep up to date with the Appeal here.

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“I’m going to be on the telly!” by Janellen Redington

janellen web1blog1“I’m going to be on the telly!”

By Janellen Redington,
Kinship carer & future celebrity.

I have to say it isn’t very often you receive a call asking if you would like to be on TV. My initial reaction was, wow, why me?   I am always one for chipping in and doing my bit and as I have grown older I made the decision to always say yes to new experiences – within reason! So rather rashly, and in haste, I agreed without really knowing all the details. All I knew was that I was one kinship carers Grandparents Plus had approached to help raise awareness and much needed funding via the BBC1 Lifeline Charity appeal.

I don’t have much time nowadays to watch TV, but I do remember seeing these appeals from some time ago, in my pre-grandchildren life. They show a couple of case studies and the affect the charity has had on their lives. It’s usually fronted by a well-known celebrity and ends with a request to make a donation to the charity to help fund the vital work that they do. I visited the BBC webpage and watched the latest appeal to refresh my memory and in doing so remembered that in the past I have often felt that any small monthly donation I could make would be pointless when the charity needs millions, and although often moved by the stories I rarely did anything to help.

Well that mind set has changed. I know first-hand what it means to have a need that is not being met anywhere else and I am now the recipient of the benefits of a charity working for my cause. I know what it is like feeling isolated and having to go through a difficult situation alone but I also know what it is like being able to connect with an organisation that can and does support me when I need it. Grandparents Plus has provided me with the opportunity to meet others in similar situations, ordinary people going about their everyday lives. People whose lives are turned upside down and changed forever, often without warning, and nearly always without support or guidance of any kind.

At the age of 46 I would never had thought that I would be spending my entire adult working life bringing up children, from starting my family at 21 to finishing raising my grandchildren at the age of 64 (if I, or they, live that long! And there are days when I seriously doubt that). Being able to call someone when it all gets too much, or accessing invaluable information and advice. Grandparents Plus really is my one-stop help shop.

Having support from Grandparents Plus has also given me the strength to try and support others. With friends and other kinship carers we set up our own local support group where we try to meet up regularly, even if it’s just for a coffee. It’s amazing the mutual understanding we have of each other’s situations and feelings, sometimes you don’t even need to talk about it, just being together is enough. I’ve made some wonderful friends, lifelong friends that I would not have met if it hadn’t been for our situations, so although it is hard and tiring and relentless I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So here I am preparing to be interviewed on camera, telling the world (well a few million people) about how I ended up with my three grandchildren, why their parents were unable to look after them, why I needed support, why I felt so isolated, and what Grandparents Plus has done for me. All in the hope that people will listen and give money so that their work can continue. I am preparing to put myself under public scrutiny, and believe me when I tell you I am terrified, I am not a ‘natural’ camera person, I shy away from pictures being taken let alone a full blown TV camera.

girlsWhilst feeling very pleased with myself about my contribution, I told my very good friend and fellow kinship carer Vicki about the BBC coming to my house to film me. She very quickly smashed any illusions of grandeur I may have had, by telling me that Grandparents Plus were only interested in getting the twins on camera! And who can blame them, they are such cuties.

Reality is now sinking in and as filming day approaches fast my reaction is more, oh my goodness what have I let myself in for. But this charity, this cause, the work that they do, is so very important to me and all kinship carers, that I am ready to share my story for them.

You can watch the Grandparents Plus BBC Lifeline Appeal here

You can keep up to date with the Appeal here.

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It could happen to you by Alana Genge

Alana Genge WebsiteIt could happen to you.

By Alana Genge
Communications and Marketing Assistant, Grandparents Plus

Right now, there are 200,000 grandparents and family carers (kinship carers) raising children in the UK. If you are not already one of them, you could be in the future. Grandparents and the wider family step in to raise children for a number of reasons: parental death, drug abuse, illness or imprisonment.

But how many people know that 7 in 10 grandparents and other kinship carers report being stressed, depressed or isolated? I recently received a letter from Maisie, a kinship child, who wrote to say that her grandma often “…feels isolated and different to others, almost as if she is not normal.” We need to raise awareness of the struggles of kinship care, and ensure that the government recognises that people like Maisie and her grandma all across the UK need policy changes to ensure kinship carers are supported.

An exciting (and sometimes sad) fact about life is that we often don’t know what lies around the corner. We can all make plans, but what if circumstances change? What if your retirement becomes a demanding full-time job of raising your grandchildren with no support or income?

You may not be one of the 200,000 kinship carers currently raising children, but you can support them by signing up to the Grandparents Plus #timetocare campaign here.

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“We are the lucky ones.” By Ashleigh O’leary

AL“We are the lucky ones”
By Ashleigh O’leary

Ashleigh’s parents have been kinship carers to her niece, Kacey, for the last five years.

I was 15 when Kacey moved in with us permanently. I had just finished my GCSEs and had started working towards my A Levels. My parents obtained a Residency Order for Kacey when she was only 8 months old.

Although my parents did most of the work when Kacey was a baby, I had to step in and do my share of the caring. Before the Residence Order, I would have her overnight and then get up and go to school or I would have to go and check on her before school. At one stage we were having her 4 or 5 nights a week.

My brother is Kacey’s dad but his relationship with her mum wasn’t great, it was unstable and Kacey was neglected. It was really hard for me and my parents, we tried to help as much as we could and at one stage Kacey and her mum moved in with us but it just didn’t work.

Although I am not a kinship carer, I have had a great in-put and say in Kacey’s care. Sadly kinship carers are often forgotten and it is not recognised that they need the same support as foster carers. There is a sense of inequality to it all.

It is always quite difficult trying to explain our situation. People just don’t understand or want to understand. Even some of our wider family don’t understand why we have Kacey, they think we should have left her with her mum, but that just wasn’t an option.

A lot of people question whether Kacey should be with my parents because they obviously didn’t do a good job the first time around with her dad. Of course this isn’t true my parents are fantastic, they are the kind of people that want everyone to feel welcome in our home and would do anything for anyone. My sister has a Masters Degree and is a teacher in a secondary school (she is a super mum), I am doing just fine and work as an Early years Practitioner and my eldest brother is doing great too. It is not my parents’ fault that one of their children couldn’t bring up his daughter.

We are all so close and we couldn’t imagine being without Kacey. My parents are doing an excellent job bringing her up and she is a very happy, bright and confident 4 year old. People often say that Kacey is lucky to have us but we simply reply by saying “No, we are lucky to have her.”

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Ashleigh’s post highlight some of the problems that kinship carers face. We think it is #timetocare about kinship care.

For more information please visit our #timtocare page here.

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Kinship carers must keep speaking out. By Julie Myers

Kinship carers must keep speaking out Julie M  

By Julie Myers
Kinship carer

Julie Myers has a Special Guardianship Order for her five year old granddaughter Rebecca. After being forced to give up work when she took on care of Rebecca, Julie has become an active campaigner on kinship care and was shortlisted for Campaigner of the Year at the Grandparents Plus Kinship Care Awards 2013.

The one thing I asked for when we took on Rebecca was to keep my job.  We really relied on my income and I loved my work, so giving it up was a last resort, but in the end I felt I had no choice. We had to re-mortgage the house we had so nearly paid off, and for the first time in our lives we found ourselves in debt. 

All we needed was a bit of support and the time to get our lives back in order and get the SGO sorted out. We were trying to give Rebecca a secure loving home but we found ourselves worrying about just keeping a roof over her head. It doesn’t make sense to say, “take on this child but we’ll take away your financial security”. It’s just so short sighted.

What’s more, when you lose your job, you lose your self esteem. You become somebody that’s not considered useful and for me that was horrendous. I felt totally demoralised. I had left school at 15 to help put my brother through college, and had only taken 8 months off work on maternity leave in 34 years. From humble beginnings I had ended up working in my local school doing something I really loved and it meant such a lot to me. The headmaster seemed to really believe in me and had suggested that I train to become a teacher.

Suddenly I had to give up my job, my security and my social life. I found we had people judging us, making us feel that we couldn’t have been good parents and that I wasn’t a good grandparent as I was upset all the time and I was struggling to make the right decisions. It’s a good job my husband and I are rock solid- we’ve been married 30 years- but if anything could have broken us it would’ve been this. I ended up having counselling. I kept having panic attacks because all I could think was if I die who’s going to look after my grandchild?

All sorts of things have happened to me in my life, but I have found this the hardest. I spent a lot of time thinking, what can I do? I wrote to the Prime Minister, I wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister, I met with local MPs and Councillors. I really wanted to get across what’s happened to us but in a constructive way, so that it might help someone else in this situation. I got to the point where I thought right, I’ve got to leave it now and move on. But then I thought no, I don’t want someone else to go through what I and my family have gone through. People like us, kinship carers, they need people to speak up. And that’s my mission now.

Without Grandparents Plus I think I would have gone completely under. It made such a difference to have someone on the end of the phone, and it was just so great to meet other people in the same situation, it made me feel so much more confident. Getting involved in the Month of Action in 2012 and going to London for the Kinship Care Summit, I felt so empowered. I felt like the person I used to be when I worked. Campaigning has helped me to regain my self esteem and feel valuable in some way. That’s so important to me and it’s a good role model for Rebecca

Last year, I agreed to tell my story at the kinship care event in Yorkshire. I was so nervous. I didn’t want to be depressing or overly critical of the professionals there, and I wanted to show how by being positive and proactive kinship carers can make a difference to our own lives and to the lives of the children we care for. The minute I started talking I felt the compassion and the good will of the people in that room, many just like me. I realised that kinship carers must keep speaking out and eventually we will be heard and given the recognition and support we deserve.

It is #timetocare about kinshipcare.

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