Have you listened to The Archers recently?

7Have you listened to The Archers recently?

By Jo Raine, Advice and Information Manager,
Grandparents Plus

The Archers on BBC Radio 4 has been grabbing a lot of headlines recently, with its story about domestic violence and emotional abuse.  It’s undoubtedly the case that the programme has raised awareness of these issues and the devastating effects of being in an abusive relationship.

The storyline reached a climax when Helen stabbed her abusive husband Rob, for which she is now in prison awaiting trial.  Her young son Henry initially went to stay with Helen’s parents who have always had a very close relationship with him.  However, Rob refused to return Henry to his grandparents’ home  after a visit. Henry’s grandparents went to court to challenge this, but were granted contact with Henry for just one day a week, pending a further hearing.

Soaps are often criticised for unrealistic and sensational storylines. However, denied contact and conflict over where a grandchild should live are issues faced by many of the grandparents who contact our advice service and helpline.

If Henry’s grandparents, Pat and Tony, had contacted Grandparents Plus for advice we’d have directed them towards obtaining some legal advice from a specialist in child law, given the complex circumstances of their case. However, every situation is different, and sometimes matters can be resolved through communication within the family, or with the help of a mediator.

If Henry does come to live with them, Pat and Tony’s need for advice is unlikely to end there. When grandparents take on the care of their grandchildren, they continue to face practical, emotional and financial challenges. Grandparents Plus’ advice service is designed specifically for grandparents and other kinship carers. We understand the challenges and can provide information, advice and support on issues ranging from  financial support, benefits and housing to children’s special needs and behavioural issues.

Need support and information?
Lost contact with your grandchild? Visit our information pages or call the Grandparents Contact Helpline on: 0300 033 7015

Looking after a relative’s child? Visit our advice and information pages or call the Family and Friends Advice Line on: 0300 123 7015

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From Playground to Prison: Supporting a grandchild with a parent in prison by Patrice Lawrence

From Playgroup to Prison: Supporting a grandchild with a parent in prison

By Patrice Lawrence,
Development Officer, Clinks

There is a heart-breaking book called The Road to Low Newton.  It is based on a photographic project about the lives of women who served sentences in HMP Low Newton, a women’s prison in Durham.  Besides each individual portrait, a woman tells her story.  Many experienced or witnessed abuse, violence and addiction in their families or communities and all struggle with substance abuse.

Many of the women are also mothers.  While some are able to care for their children, others have been unable to cope.  Their children are in foster care or adopted, others are living with grandparents – short term, while the mother serves her sentence, or, as in Clare Maclean’s case, as a permanent arrangement.  She says,

My son lives with his father’s mum. I haven’t seen him for six years. I write to him every fortnight and I send him presents at Christmas and on his birthday.

She is hopeful that face-to-face contact will begin again soon.

This story is repeated many times, up and down the country as grandparents juggle the needs of their grandchildren as well as the children’s parents serving custodial and community sentences.  As the women’s stories show, resettlement following release is not easy.  Self-harm, poor mental health and drink and drug addiction remain live issues making it tough to create a suitable home environment for a child.

So how do grandparents cope?  Some may be caught in the middle.  The children they are caring for may be missing their parents, but may have suffered neglect or witnessed violence. Children affected by family imprisonment often talk about stigma and isolation, as well as mixed feelings about visiting their parent inside.   Guard dogs, body searches, the locking and unlocking of metal gates and the formal setting of visiting halls can be frightening.

Then add to that the distance and costs of visits.  As research shows, kinship carers rarely have money to spare and may feel the impact of future welfare cuts.  Access to training to help them to support the children in their care as well as direct services for the children vary from area to area. In the meantime, the grandparents’ own son or daughter may have urgent needs – homelessness, recovery from addiction, managing poor mental or physical health.

My role at Clinks is to raise awareness of the impact of imprisonment on family members.  Family support is often an essential element of preventing reoffending, but families’ experiences and the services that support them often receive little attention.  I will be visiting organisations and projects, talking to families and prisoners, building an evidence base to raise the profile of families and family support.  More information about my work can be found here.

If you are caring for children whose parents are in prison, here are some places where you can go for additional support.

  • Pact is a national charity which supports people affected by imprisonment. They run prison visitor centres’, deliver relationship and parenting courses and operate a helpline for the families of prisoners.  A befriending service and peer support groups offer more personalised support.
  • Partners of Prisoners (POPS) is based in Manchester, providing information and support to the families of offenders from their earliest contact with the Criminal Justice System to post-release, across the Greater Manchester area.  POPS also run visitor centres, work with other agencies to support prisoners’ families and have particular experience of working with black and other minority ethnic families.
  • NEPACS works in prisons across the north east of England, running visitors’ centres, play facilities and tea bars. They organise special visits for children so they can spend quality time with their parent, learning through organised play activities.  NEPACS helps about 500 offenders and/or their families each year with a small grant to help them through financial difficulties and provides free caravan holiday breaks for up to 40 families with a relative in prison each year.
  • Ormiston Families Unite Programme operates in at least ten prisons across the east of England.  Their services include running visitors’ centres’, organising family-friendly children’s visits, accredited parenting courses, family liaison and community work.
  • Spurgeons run visitors’ centres in prisons in London and Winchester and deliver targeted programmes for young offenders or those at risk of offending – including mentoring for young people in custody, and family based intervention to prevent offending and reoffending. They also offer specialist support for children experiencing the loss of a parent through imprisonment and community support services for the families of offenders.
  • Adfam is a national charity supporting families affected by drink and drugs use.  They offer advice, information, opportunities to share experiences and peer support groups.
  • The Offenders’ Families Helpline and website has a wealth of practical information about all aspects of the Criminal Justice System from arrest to release.



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Let’s go back to the start by Vicki O’Leary

vickiLet’s go back to the start

By Vicki O’Leary
Kinship carer

Where to start a blog about my life? They say the beginning is a very good place to start so let’s go back there. I’m an adoptee and have the most amazing parents. They were always extremely good role models when I was growing up. They worked hard and were very loving. That being said, later in my life when my granddaughter needed someone to love and care for her I couldn’t face the thought of her being adopted. Yes I had had a great experience but that doesn’t mean I wanted my grandchild to be adopted. I was around and she was mine.

Although, I had ‘done my time’ and had brought up my children I knew I could do this again and well frankly knew I had to do it again. I was afraid that social services would deem me and my husband not good enough, after all we had obviously failed somewhere. I mean, one of our children could not look after their child and had failed so we must have failed somewhere too? But, hang on, our other children are hard working adults all doing a wonderful job so can we really be to blame? At what age does your child need to take responsibility for their actions and when we do the parents stop being accountable?

My husband and I, with the support of our family stepped forward and said that we would care for our granddaughter full time. It wasn’t an easy process and the sheer stress of assessments, being in and out the court arena for two years was harrowing to say the least but thankfully we are a strong family with good friends. I was especially close to a kinship carer who lived locally. We became great friends and would meet up on Fridays and share evenings of wine and gossip, while she helped write our statements. We had to do it ourselves as we had run out of money and so had to self represent. Sadly, in a wicked turn of events I lost my sidekick and best friend a couple of years ago. I will forever be grateful that I knew her and for all the guidance and support she gave me.

In turn just as I had been helped I decided I was now in a position to help other kinship carers. I am a supporter of Grandparents Plus and the vital work that they do for all kinship carers and I am an administrator for a local and national online support group Kinship Foster Carers. In fact I am now one of the lucky ones who get to arrange Kinfest – an annual holiday for kinship carers.

Now five years on my little darling granddaughter has just started school and my dad has permanently moved into my house as he is now unable to live alone. Suddenly, this wonderful man who loved and cared for me now needs me to step up and tell him that it’s all going to be okay and that he can live with me. Yes this means more unexpected life adjustments – we have given up our living room to make it his bedroom which means the conservatory will now be the dining room and the dining room the living room. Who needs a conservatory anyway?

In a way it’s exciting. There will be four generations ranging from 5 to 88 living under one roof. My roof. And as I go from gloves on to cream my dads leg to putting my granddaughter’s hair in bunches for school I know that it’s all worthwhile and that I am not alone. I have my kinship friends and family, how could I ever feel alone? And I know that one day in the future my husband and I will do the things we have been planning and will be care free.

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We will be heard by Alex.

A1We will be heard.

By Alex
Young person raised in kinship care

We are a group of young people who attend a Kinship Care Group in Liverpool. As far as we know we are the only group for young peoples being raised in kinship care in England.

We recently held a conference to raise awareness of kinship care from a young person’s perspective. The conference was held in Goodison in March and we were very proud of what we achieved. We decided that we needed to target professionals who work in social care and education as this is where we need to raise awareness. We worked very hard as a group to provide all of the professionals that attended with information. We used personal stories showcased through a variety of methods including presentations, soundbites and a monologue to show the very real challenges that we have had to face in our lives. At the same time we also wanted to ensure that we showed the positive experiences we have had being part of the project.

The aim of the day was to raise awareness of what kinship care is and show that kinship families need support. We feel that our families are often forgotten about and have gone unnoticed in the past. We shared our experiences with the professionals that attended because we wanted people to truly understand what kinship care is and what we have to deal with. We hope from doing the first ever young person’s conference that it will bring about change and hopefully other young people will know about us and can be supported. On the day we wanted action! So we asked all the professionals to make a pledge and tell us how they will support kinship families going forward.

At the conference we were joined by Sam Smethers from Grandparents Plus who kindly offered to give an explanation on what kinship care is; Pauline Thornley our project Co-ordinator who works full time for the project, our local Member of Parliament Stephen Twigg who praised our project and talked about how he would like to continue to help and support us. Bernie Brown the Assistant Director of Children’s Services , also spoke about how much she enjoyed visiting the project and meeting us as well as our kinship carers. She made it clear that she is eager for our Local Authority to work with us.

A lot of thought and time went into the preparation of the conference. We decided that two exercises were needed. Firstly we quizzed professionals about what they knew about kinship care and then went on to ask them to make a pledge. I am happy to report that both went really well and we received lots of ideas.

As young people we were pleased on how the day turned out. Our aim for the future is to be able to hold a National Conference and bring about real change for kinship carers and their families. We also think it would be great if there were other groups like ours across the country as young people need support and advice as much as our kinship carers do.

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Four Nans by Margie, Bernadette, Kathy and Julie.


Margie, Kathy, Julie, Bernadette

Four Nans

By Margie Jone, Bernadette Whyte, Kathy Feeley and Julie Howard
Kinship carers

The four nans meet once a week when their grandchildren are in school. They met through a local C.A.H.M.S (Child Adolescent Mental Health Service) group for Looked After Children based in Liverpool. Unfortunately the group closed due to funding but the Nans went on to organise their own group.

With help from a professional wrtiter, Deborah Morgan, they have written a book which they hope will raise awareness of kinship care and bring about change to ensure all kinship children are supported. Deborah worked with the group to mentor them in writing their stories straight from the heart about living through harsh experiences. Here is one of their poems.

Four Nans

We meet once a week
When our grandchildren are at school
We talk about our lives
Rearing our grandchildren
Our love for them
Our fear’s for them
What’s happening to us?
Getting taken to court
With no financial help to defend ourselves
No help available when we need support for our children
With special needs
Guardianship order with promises of support not available
Tears, laughter, dreams
Lots of tea and coffee
And hope we can change a couple of things by sharing our lives.


If you would like to buy a copy of the book please email alana.genge@grandparentsplus.org.uk or call Alana on 020 8981 8001.


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We demand recognition! By Janellen Redington & Robert Gilburt

JanWe demand recognition!

By Janellen Redington
Kinship carer

Since becoming a kinship carer almost three years ago, I have learnt to become a mum to babies and toddlers again. I’ve remember what sleepless nights are like and how hard they make it to get up for work the next day! I have resurrected my ‘100 things to do with mince recipes’ and ‘100 things to do on a rainy day’ book.

Sadly, I have lost some friends and family along the way as a result of them finding it difficult to adjust to my ‘change of circumstances’. That’s not to say I haven’t gained a lot too. What I have gained (apart from three adorable children) is a wonderful extended family of kinship carers, their children and their kinship children. I have made some new best friends who I know will be friends for life. I have also had some of the most memorable days  of my life with my new kinship family –  Sunday 19 April 2015 was one of them.

My fellow kinship carer Vicki came up with an idea. She thought we should make our voices heard and arrange a protest march in London before the General Election. “Of course I’ll help organise it” I say, words I began to regret as our chosen date loomed ever closer and I was being quite ineffectual. Some weeks later and nothing done, “I can’t do it” I say to Vicki, feeling like I had completely let her and the group down. But hope was not lost as another kinship carer, Paul, gallantly took up the reins and co-ordinated with Westminster Council, the Metropolitan Police and Downing Street. Unfortunately our proposed march could not take place due to a number of other events taking place in London on the same day but not all was lost as we were allowed to protest across the road from Downing Street at Richmond terrace.

Managing to get on top of my workload just in time I threw myself back into it again, able to help with some other very important items on our agenda. I now know how to set up an online petition and have realised just how much work it involves. Let’s just say I have never spent so much time on social media! I found my biggest hurdles were firstly, motivating kinship carers to get involved and to actually do something positive about their situation rather than just sitting back and moaning about it and secondly, trying to engage people in conversation about a subject that they may never have heard about.

I am now a pro at using a megaphone and speaking in public (very loudly!) I have learnt that whatever your fears, you can overcome them with the support of good friends and having  passion about the cause you are backing. I have learnt of the generosity of people you have met for the first time and the lengths some will go to support their cause. I have also learnt that the Metropolitan Police are very polite and friendly (well at Downing Street anyway) and that the cuts must be taking effect everywhere – including Downing Street, as we saw a woman entering with two huge value brand high street chain store bags.

Sunday 19 April was a very special day spent with some very special people, in our beautiful Capital City. We shared an experience many will never have the opportunity or determination to do. Over 250 people wanted to protest with us but could not for a number of reason, notably for many it was lack of funds or lack of childcare. This alone makes me more determined to keep fighting for recognition, financial provision, training and support.


Some of the kinship carers who took part in the protest.

The Protest

By Robert Gilburt
kinship carer

They have all been down to Westminster
By train by boat and plane…
Supporting kinship families
lots of people came…
Isn’t it time we were recognised
For the jobs we do…
We look after others children
Something birth parents can’t do…
These children are mostly our grandkids
Who would otherwise be in care…
We do this though our retirement
Is this really fair…?
So to help us look after these children
And give them the support they all need
Could you please sign our petition
That would really be a good deed…

  • You can still show your support by signing the petition here.
  • Further details of the Kinfest group who arranged the protest can be found on their website.
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My letter to Warren by Paul Rutherford

Paul blogMy letter to Warren

By Paul Rutherford
Kinship carer

Warren has been living with his grandmother, Sue, since he was 20 months old and will be 16 in October. Paul met and married Sue in 2010 and has had a strong bond with Warren ever since.

Warren has Potocki-Shaffer Syndrome (PSS) which is extremely rare with less than 100 known cases in the world and Warren may be the only person in the UK with the condition. As a result of PSS, Warren has particularly complex mental and physical needs and requires lifelong 24-hour supervision. This is Paul’s letter to Warren.

Dear Warren,

When people ask us why Nanny Sue and I are looking after you and how we manage to at ‘our age’ its really very hard to know what to say to them. It is harder for us now we’re older than if we were your Mum and Dad. If we didn’t love you as if you are our own boy, we wouldn’t be able to look after you. We know we might not always be able to be happy and smile all the time. We know sometimes you must get fed up with us, but you are the most important person in our lives. You are our family now. You, Nanny Sue and me.

You know there are lots of other people, of all ages, in our ‘big’ family, but they don’t really help us do they? But your Aunts are looking after your cousins and some of them live too far away. Nanny Sue and I only have help from the carers who help us look after you; but it is just a job to them, and as you know, they all leave us after a while.

Did you know there are thousands and thousands of other Nannies and Grandads who look after some of their grandchildren like we do? Some of those grandkids have special needs or disabilities like you, and lots of the kids might be upset or angry because they can’t live with their Mums and Dads. They are all lucky kids though, because their Nannies and Granddads have chosen to look after them. If they hadn’t, most of those kids would have had to go and live with strangers: people who they don’t know. Some might have had to live in special homes with lots of other children.

It must be awful for you sometimes, not being able to talk to us. We know it upsets you because we see it in your eyes. We know you try to hide your frustration from us and we know you listen when we talk to you – mostly! I love your sneaky, crafty sense of humour and you often make Nanny Sue and me laugh and smile. When you do that we are extra-glad you live with us. We want you to stay with us always.

If we were as old as Mums and Dads usually are, we wouldn’t worry so much about what will happen to you as you grow up and become a man. Nanny Sue was 60 last week, and you know I’m not very well. I think you know, in your own way, how we worry ourselves sick about what will happen to you when we can’t be with you any more.

Because we can’t work, we have to rely on money from the government to be able to look after you; to get all the special equipment and some of the help we need. We are frightened that the people in the government will get grandparents like us ‘mixed up’ with people who are looking for jobs and say we can’t have as much money. We are frightened that when you are 18 they will say you are grown up and we don’t need as much money to look after you, even though you will still need just as much care.

We’re also frightened that somebody who doesn’t know us might say we are too old to look after you and take you away from us. I hope that such a situation never happens because we know how much you want to be with us, and I promise I will fight anyone like that as hard as I can.

Perhaps only other Nannies and Granddads know just how we feel, how we worry so much, how scared we are that you might be left alone one day: alone with strangers who don’t know you, and who are only looking after you because it’s their job.

How will anybody who doesn’t know you understand what you want or what you need? How will a stranger know when you want to lie down, want to go out, want something to eat or drink, or watch something different on tv? How will a stranger know which music you like to listen to in bed, in your van or when sitting in your wheelchair? How will a stranger know when you’re sick or just tired?

Nanny Sue and I worry so much about all these things. We worry if the council will really let you stay in this bungalow that was built specially, just for you, or if they’ll just put you in a home because they say it will be cheaper for them. We know you would hate that and it would make you very, very sad.

We worry that someone will say they don’t have enough money to pay for all the care you need now, and will always need. You don’t know what the government is. You don’t know what money is or where it comes from. But you will need to be looked after all the time for as long as you live. Who will make sure you’re looked after properly after we’ve gone? Where will we find someone to do that?

Warren, I’m sure there are lots of other Grandparents who understand exactly what I’m trying to tell you. We all have to hope and pray that you will be looked after just as if it was Nanny Sue and me still with you. You deserve nothing but the best, Warren. But you know that for now, you are safe, cared for and loved, and always will be for as long as Nanny Sue and I can be with you.


You can read Paul’s other blogs by visiting his website here.


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Grandparents by Suzie Hayman

Suzie Hayman blog1Grandparents

By Suzie Hayman

Suzie is agony aunt of Woman magazine, a trustee of two national charities, Family Lives and The Who Cares Trust and a Patron of Unique Kidz and Co. She is a relationship counsellor, a broadcaster and parenting practitioner and the author of 30 books.

Grandparents may have changed over the last twenty years. If the name summons up images of white-haired old ladies and gentlemen in slippers tottering about on zimmer frames you’re certainly not with the programme! But one thing hasn’t changed – grandparents are a boon, a blessing, an essential part of so many children’s lives.

As an agony aunt and counsellor I’ve so often seen the profound influence grandparents’ presence or absence can make. In most families grandparents are the backbone, the quiet foundation on which families run. They offer childcare, allowing parents to work and earn while they and the children can enjoy each other’s company. They offer backup to parents’ rules and boundaries and the occasional different view which can help children learn to manage difference. And they offer an insight into different times, different experiences, different ideas but with the abiding thread that the stories are about your family and thus yourself.

There are some families however in which grandparents are the line between getting by and totally imploding. When parents are in conflict, grandparents offer comfort by showing relationships can be peaceable. When parents split up, grandparents can provide stability and sometimes grandparents can provide shelter – a place to stay and even to be brought up in safety and contentment if your parents simply can’t do that for a period or anymore. Kinship care has always been a reality but what might to some be a surprise is the number of people who write to me or who I help face to face who have been brought up by grandparents for all or part of their childhoods, or who are doing the job themselves. I’m not sure whether the numbers have increased or whether we’re simply talking about it more these days – whatever, grandparents need to be recognised and supported in that role. At a time when they might have fewer resources – financial, physical and perhaps emotional, so many grandparents take up a baton they wouldn’t dream of dropping.

But do we recognise and support grandparents enough? While many parents realise they couldn’t manage without them and many children love them, I don’t think we quite recognise both the amount of support they give and the abiding influence they have. Loving, supportive grandparents help make a child feel they are ok, worthwhile, capable, lovable. Critical, unkind and demanding grandparents leave a child feeling unworthy, incompetent, unlovable. But even the absence of grandparents, perhaps those who have lost touch or been excluded when a relationship breaks down can have a lasting effect on a child. I’ve dealt with so many people who could trace their deep feelings of being ‘not good enough’ to the time they were told granny or grandpa had “gone away”. Sometimes parents feel it’s kinder to wrap death up in a euphemism, not realising a child will interpret that as meaning grandpa thought the child not worth seeing again. And where the exclusion might have been because of a family row of some sort, children don’t understand it’s all about adults arguing but rather they assume grandparents rejected and abandoned them because of something the child did wrong.

I’d love to see the grandparent/grandchild bond recognised as vital to a child’s well-being. Separating parents need to love their children more than they hate each other and co-operate in maintaining the bonds between grandparents from both sides. I’d also like to see parents become far more aware of the needs of grandparents. However much they love to help, they also need time to go off and do their own thing – they aren’t there simply to be free childcare. And I’d also like to see parents and grandparents feeling able to discuss the rules and boundaries they want to put in place. It’s not unreasonable to be able to say to your parent “I love you, I have no argument about the way you brought me up but we do things differently and if you’re going to look after my child it needs to be with some of my rules”. Parents might like to say they insist on no smacking, no junk food, no smoking, limited screen time (tv, computers, phones)  and that routines and bedtimes are sacrosanct. Grandparents might like to argue for the occasional treat. Just as there are different rules at home and at school, children can cope perfectly well with varied rules in some issues at mum and dad’s and at granny and grandpa’s. What all of you need however is consistency on the important things and all of you need to decide what they are. The key is discussing the rules, and parents being able to say to their child “That’s ok when you go visit but you go back to my rules when you come home!” On a practical level I’d also like to see the postcode lottery that dictates how much, if any, support kinship carers receive from their local authority eliminated. Grandparents stepping in and taking care of their grandchildren should be universally recognised as the massively saving grace it is, in so many ways.

My view on grandparents is partly informed by my professional experience. I’ve seen so many cases where the existence or loss of a grandparent made the difference between happiness and misery – where a parent or family struggled to manage on their own or a child felt crushed and desolated by not having granny or grandpa there. And equally, I’ve seen families strengthened and elevated by …. well, by love. The other part of my view is of course because I was lucky enough to have had the grandmother I’d love everyone to have. She was loving, affirming and vital, always interested and interesting, always a safe haven and always entertaining. I try very hard to be a granny like her – and wish I could ensure every child has one too.

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When saying what you think is the right option by Adele Ramet

Whadelerametblogen Saying What You Think is the Right Option

By Adele Ramet, Grandparent

Adele is a grandparent who regularly cares for her grandchild – she has a message to share with you all.

I was so excited! I’d never seen a scan of a baby before and the image on the screen was crystal clear. We were going to have a granddaughter at last. Fast forward five years, we wait anxiously while our little girl has a very different type of scan. The latest in what has become her routine since being diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of two.

Our role as grandparents changed significantly on that awful day. I had always taken the view that grandmothers, not children, should be seen and not heard. I’d tried to stick to this rule for our two grandsons, so when I discovered our little granddaughter was bumping into the furniture, I didn’t say, “Isn’t that one of the symptoms of a brain tumour?” Yes, she was much slower than her brother to talk and no, she didn’t run around much, preferring to sit and be cuddled most of the time but the GP didn’t seem too worried, so rather than frighten her parents, I kept silent.

Even when the vomiting started, I said nothing, clinging onto the hope that the doctors and specialists really weren’t missing the obvious. Sadly, they were and it took a relief hospital specialist to finally recognise the symptoms. Within 36 hours, our precious granddaughter was undergoing a six hour operation to remove a malignant tumour. She has Medulla Blastoma, an aggressive form of cancer for which the survival odds at her age are between 30 and 50 per-cent. We live around an hour’s drive away from our daughter and those first dark days and weeks were spent alternating between hospital visits and doing what we could to support our son-in-law and grandson. Their other Grandma lives close by them so between us we sorted out school runs and sleepovers for our, then four year old, grandson. We cleaned their house, cooked large batches of meals for microwaving at hospital and home and sat with our grandson whilst his parents were at the hospital.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to try and give one beloved grandchild fun and reassurance when you know that the other is fighting for her life. Somehow, you just do it. Eventually, she came home to a house as sterile as we could get it before the first round of chemotherapy began. For some reason, our granddaughter’s hair had never grown much at all, so when it fell out, the difference wasn’t too bad. Although she proved to be amazingly resilient, lack of immunity was always a problem and she was constantly in and out of the local children’s cancer unit, fighting off yet another infection. Radiotherapy and further chemotherapy have taken their toll. Along with a severe squint and partial sight in one eye there is also permanent hearing loss.

We are on constant standby in readiness for emergency calls but there is little we can do to take the daily strain from our daughter’s shoulders. Our overwhelming emotion has always been one of helplessness but throughout all the scares and worry, our grandchildren have been inspirational.

Our granddaughter, ably assisted by her wonderfully supportive big brother, recently celebrated her fifth birthday with a fabulous fairy party. She has grown into a lively, happy, bright little girl who takes great delight in running her grandparents ragged. At present, she looks set to reach the crucial five year point when the survival odds should increase in her favour. Meanwhile, as we wait for the results of this latest scan, my advice to other grandparents is to speak out if you feel something is wrong. Your intervention could just save a child’s life.

Adele is part of the Facebook support group: Grandparents of Cancer Kids: It’s our journey too.

You can read her blog here.

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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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