Healthy eating habits for your grandchildren

Blog post eating habitsHealthy eating habits for your grandchildren

by Helen Burgess and Kate Veale, Little Cooks Co

The love, support and knowledge that grandparents bring to family life is absolutely crucial but, in our view, too often overlooked and under appreciated. There is an army of grandparents who have a dependent child living with them, and the childcare provided by grandparents has been estimated to be worth billions- though this is too rarely recognised in the public debate about childcare provision and costs.

We understand the powerful role you play in your grandchildren’s lives.  We were both taught how to cook by our grandparents and their wisdom and guidance is what shaped the passion we have for food and healthy eating today.  But not only this, the times we spent in the kitchen together are some of our happiest memories.  There is something incredibly bonding about cooking together – sharing the same goal, working together, the fun, the mess, and the satisfaction of sitting together  afterwards to eat what you’ve both created.

There is no time in life when it is more important to eat healthy food than in childhood as the rate of development and growth is phenomenal.  Yet it is often a time when it is hard to eat healthily –  the intense marketing of junk food aimed at children, the hidden sugars added to children’s food, unhealthy lunch options in schools and fussy eating to name but a few reasons.  And this is now being reflected in the health statistics – the rates of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes in the UK (and across the western world) are staggering, and getting worse year on year. One in five children in the UK start primary school obese and one in three leave obese, and cases of type 2 diabetes have doubled in children since 2005.

We have set up the UK’s first monthly cooking kit for kids.  We hope it will help grandparents across the country spend regular quality time with their grandchildren, teaching them to cook and creating happy lifelong memories together.  Each kit is delivered to your grandchild and includes a healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack recipe as well as games and experiments which teach children about the power of food through action.  We know kids love getting post and we believe that when our box arrives each month they will be excited about opening it and getting their aprons on; making cooking a regular part of their home activities.


  • Replace sugary breakfasts (cereal, toast with jam etc) with porridge, mashed banana and cinnamon
  • Reduce fruit juice, squash and fizzy drinks and replace with water (adding a slice of lemon and cucumber can help make it more interesting)
  • Replace sweetened yogurt with greek yogurt and berries
  • Reduce sugary processed foods (cakes, crisps, biscuits, doughnuts) – with alternatives such as homemade smoothies
  • Use butter rather than margarine in sandwiches – margarine is high in trans fats which are harmful to our health


Little Cooks Co was born out of a desire to create something that would help put cooking and eating together back at the heart of family life.  Helen and co-founder Kate hope that their boxes will help a generation of children to lead healthier, happier lives by teaching them to enjoy cooking and eating healthy food from a young age.  To find out more, visit

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Family and Friends looking after children by Simon Dakers

istock_000004837317webFamily and friends looking after children

by Simon Dakers, Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP

When children cannot live with their parents, for whatever reason, it can often be family members or friends that step in to offer care. It is usually in the child’s best interests to be brought up by family or friends rather than being placed with an unrelated foster carer. Children are more likely to stay in the same school and have less disruption in their lives and the outcome is generally better. Of course, there are times when being accommodated by a local authority best meets the child’s welfare needs.

A carer who is related to a child or already had a connection with the child’s family is known as a kinship carer. Kinship carers play an extremely important role across the length and breadth of the UK in providing a loving, nurturing and safe home for children; with the largest group of kinship carers being grandparents.

Arrangements can usually be made privately and informally between parents and kinship carers unless there are concerns about a child’s welfare when Children’s Services may be involved. This could be because of parental alcohol or drug use, domestic violence, mental illness or other factors. In those circumstances, decisions often have to been made quickly and it is important to obtain legal advice as different arrangements bring different rights, responsibilities and support.

An informal arrangement leaves parental responsibility [the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property] with the parents. Any decisions in relation to the child, such as where they are to be educated, medical treatment (unless an emergency) and travelling abroad can only be taken by the parents. There is no special entitlement to support and any financial assistance from a local authority is discretionary.

If the local authority wants to place a child with a family member or friend, the question is whether the child is “looked after” by the local authority. If so, the carer must be assessed and approved as a foster carer although in an emergency temporary, time limited approval can be given.

Foster carers don’t have parental responsibility but they are entitled to a fostering allowance and other support. They are not entitled to Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit. Just 5% of children in kinship care are “looked after children”.

Kinship carers can apply to Court for a Child Arrangements Order stating that the child lives with them [this used to be called a Residence Order]. The order would give shared parental responsibility between the carer and the parent. There is no special entitlement to support from the local authority and as with an informal arrangement, financial assistance from a local authority is discretionary.

Alternatively, a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) could be sought. An SGO provides a framework of permanency for a child. It cements the relationship between the carer and the child to a greater degree than a Child Arrangements Order and provides enhanced parental responsibility for the carer. This means that the Special Guardian can exercise parental responsibility without agreement from the other holders.

A local authority can be asked to provide a Support Services Plan. This will assess entitlement to financial support (including legal costs) and help with contact arrangements. Therapy and respite care can also be provided.  85% of children have difficulties at the point of placement with 29% categorised as, “challenging throughout placement” and it is therefore imperative that carers receive any help available. A child may also need help with understanding why they live with a carer and to cope with any parental rejection.

Kinship carers often struggle financially, feel isolated and are not aware of support available. They often have to give up work, as it can be too challenging to juggle childcare with holding down a job.  There is no doubt that becoming a kinship carer is a life changing event but the majority of kinship carers say that, given the choice again, they would still take on the caring role in spite of it’s challenges.

Grandparents Plus provides advice and information to all kinship carers. If you need support, information or advice or you just want someone to talk to then take the first step and give them a call on 0300 123 7015.

This has been a quick canter through the legal minefield of options that are often available but sometimes overlooked. Lack of information or understanding is an all too common theme. There can be no substitute for solid legal advice and this is so important to ensure that carers can make informed decisions. Remember, it’s not what you know but what you don’t know that might catch you out.

Simon Dakers is a Partner at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP which has a dedicated family and matrimonial Team with offices in Newcastle and Chester le Street. He is a member of the Law Society Family Law Panel and Children Panel and an Accredited Specialist with Resolution. To find out more, visit

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Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust

Funding for essentials items and specialist support 

The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) has grants available – ranging from £750 upwards– to support the needs of children and young people aged 0-18years. To apply, the parent of the full-time carer must work or have recently worked (within the last nine years) in any aspect of the UK fashion or textile industry – including supermarkets, clothes shops, factories and offices of businesses selling products ranging from clothing, footwear, soft furnishings and fabric.


What funding is available? 

No two families are the same, so each application is reviewed on a case by case basis. But to get you started, here is a list of items FTCT can typically fund:

list-of-specialist-itemsGrants can be offered as one off or on-going payments. Part payments are also possible, if you are approaching other charities simultaneously.

Joanne’s story 
Joanne, is 12 years old and is cared for by her maternal grandparents, Anne and David after her parent’s marriage broke down and her mother suffered a nervous breakdown. Joanne has significant speech and language problems which has affected her learning throughout childhood, causing her to become increasingly anxious and disengaged in school.

Joanne’s mother previously worked in fashion retail, so Anne and David were able to apply for an FTCT grant towards specialist speech and language lessons for Joanne.

“Joanne is thriving, gaining self-esteem and confidence as well as increased focus and language skills. She has even gained the confidence to make friends and now takes part in school activities.” David, Joanne’s Grandfather.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Who can apply?
To apply for an FTCT grant you must:

  • Be the full-time carer of a child (aged 0-18years)
  • AND work or have recently worked (within the last 9 years) in the UK fashion and textile industry* for at least one year.

So if you are a full-time carer, you can apply as long as you can provide the following:

  • A recent payslip/P45 to show proof of employment
  • A P60 or letter from your employer to show length of employment (must be at least one year)
  • Along with photocopies of a Child Benefit letter or proof of payment into your account.Parental trade connection can also be used, provided the same employment proof documents can be provided.

Applications for amounts above £750 will also require the following supporting information:

  1. Documents showing your child’s additional need: At least one letter from a Social worker / GP / Teacher / Psychologist etc. Reports from NHS / OT / School
  2. Either photocopies of additional benefit proof (if applicable) including, Tax Credits, Disability Living Allowance, Housing Benefit, etc or evidence of basic household spending.

How to apply?

FTCT have a small and dedicated team, who can guide you through the application process. No two applications are the same, so the grant amount can be tailored to suit your needs.

STEP 1: Give FTCT’S friendly team a call on 0300 123 9002 or fill in their online enquiry form to explain your situation and detail what you would like funding for.

Useful links:
The application process
Families FTCT have helped

Call the Grandparents Plus advice team for further information on 0300 123 7015.

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What can I expect if I am representing myself in court? By Sandeep Sandhu


sandeep-sandhu-cropped-blogWhat can I expect if I am representing myself in court?

By Sandeep Sandhu, Spratt Endicott Solicitors

Going to Court on a family matter can be a daunting experience, however, with careful preparation before the Hearing and seeking legal advice early, you can help minimise that stress.

I am often asked by clients to provide guidance as to what to expect when they represent themselves as a “Litigant in Person” and this article summarises what I would talk through with them before they attend Court.

Remember also, the Judge will know that you are not legally qualified, so do not feel afraid to ask the Judge, or Court staff, if you require any clarification on any aspect of the Court proceedings.

How should I prepare for a Hearing in Court?

  • You should have been given or sent a copy of any applications submitted to Court, as well as a Notice of Hearing. The Notice of Hearing will have the case number, the address of the Court at which the hearing will be held, as well as the time of the hearing, the time estimate and date.
  • In Family Law proceedings you may be contacted by CAFCASS a few weeks or days prior to the hearing. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is a non-departmental public body in England set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in Court proceedings.CAFCASS officers are trained social workers who are contacted by the Court prior to a hearing being listed to carry out safeguarding checks with the Police and Local Authority to confirm if there are any known safety risks to the children in the case.  In most cases, a CAFCASS officer will contact the parties to discuss any concerns they may have regarding the children.
  • In some cases, you may be asked by the Court to file a Position Statement prior to the hearing. These are usually kept to a certain length and require you to set out what your position is in relation to the proceedings and what you would like to happen to move the case forward, explaining clearly your reasons why.You will need to send a copy to the other parties in the case, as well as the Court, by the deadline given.  You should also make sure the document has the case number clearly written on it as well as your signature at the end of it, along with the date on which you drafted it.
  • If you have a disability, you should inform the Court as soon as possible so that they can try to accommodate your needs to the best of their ability.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the Court’s location, it is always worthwhile to pay a visit to the Court before the hearing to see how long it takes you to travel and to see if there is adequate parking.The Court may however, change the location of the Court (for example, to the Magistrates Court) a day or two before the hearing, so always contact the Court the afternoon before the day of the hearing to ensure that there is no change.
  • There can be a lot of waiting about at Court so remember to ensure you have made adequate arrangements for any child care or work arrangements.
  • Remember to take to Court any Court papers, pen and paper so that you can take notes. You may want to take refreshments with you, although there may be canteen facilities available in the Court building.

What do I need to do when I arrive at Court?

  • Remember to dress smartly but comfortably on the day. When attending Court you will need to arrive early (the Notice of Hearing will tell you how early you need to attend) and remember that even though the hearing may be listed for 30 minutes, you could be there for most of the day.
  • When you arrive at Court and have cleared security, you should go to the usher’s desk, ensuring you have your Court paperwork with you so that they can recognise the case number and confirm that you have arrived. There may be private rooms available where you can sit and, if so, be sure to let the usher know which room you are in so that they can come and find you.  When cases are ready to be heard, the case number will usually be announced over a loudspeaker system so remember to listen out for your case number being announced.
  • It is quite likely that the CAFCASS officer or legal representative for the other party will try and find you before the hearing so that they can discuss a way forward. Sometimes, issues can be resolved before you get into Court, but, if not, the time may still be used productively to see if there has been any change in the parties’ positions.

What is expected from me at the Hearing?

  • Ensure that your mobile telephone is switched off if you have one with you.
  • The legal representative for the other side may direct you, if you ask them to, as to where you need to sit. The Court clerk may also direct you if you ask them to do so when you arrive.
  • Addressing the Judge as “Sir or Madam” is the correct way to refer to a District Judge, however Magistrates can also be addressed as both “Sir or Madam” or “Your Worships”. If however, you are addressing a Circuit Judge, you may have to refer to them as “Your Honour”.  If you are unsure as to how you should address the Court Judge, then this is also something that the Court usher can help with.
  • Make sure you speak when you are asked to speak, do not raise your voice, be courteous and do not interrupt. The Judge may be making notes, so remember to speak slowly and clearly.  Make sure you make notes, remembering to highlight any dates that the Judge refers to as well as any Directions that the Court makes.
  • The Judge may ask questions and it goes without saying that your answers should be truthful and to the point. If you do not understand a question, ask the Judge to repeat themselves.  You may find that the legal representative for the other party to the proceedings may do most of the talking.  If so, try not to interrupt them but write down the point you wish to make and raise it after they have finished speaking.

What if I am too nervous about speaking in Court? 

You may be able to bring a friend with you to attend the hearing.  This friend may be able to come into Court and sit with you, help take notes and give quiet advice to you.  Such friends are referred to as “Mackenzie Friends” and are not necessarily legally qualified.  They cannot (unless given permission by the Judge) address the Court or examine any witnesses.

What will happen after the Hearing?

  • If one of the parties has a legal representative, they may be asked to “draft an Order”. This is simply the formal task of writing the Directions given by the Judge. You may be asked to wait so that the Order can be drafted or the legal representative may email this document to you for your approval the next day or so before it is sent to the Judge for “sealing”.
  • If you are unhappy with the draft document, inform the legal representative immediately so that they have the opportunity make any necessary amendments. This is why it is important to make notes during the hearing so that you can compare your notes to the actual Order.
  • Usually there will be dates given such as when things have to be done by and when the next hearing is. Ensure that all dates are diarised, with appropriate reminders set out in your diary to remind you of upcoming deadlines.
  • Please remember that family proceedings are confidential. Therefore do not show any evidence or Court documents to anyone not involved in the proceedings.

I have many clients that are Grandparents, and I understand the worry and stress that can be caused by divorce and separation.  Instructing a solicitor to act on your behalf can ease much of the pressure and provide essential advice and guidance when you most need it.

Spratt Endicott Solicitors offers a fixed fee meeting with our clients at a cost of £95 (inclusive of VAT).  If you would like to find out more, please contact Sandeep Sandhu, Solicitor at Spratt Endicott, on 01295 204154 or email her at

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Holding Baby by Jan Watts

janblogHolding Baby

By Jan Watts, Writer and kinship carer

‘No, he lives with us full time – like every day. No, his parents don’t live with us. We are raising him full-time. Yes, we are in our 60’s and yes, some people think that’s too old. But if we hadn’t stepped in who would have?’

Our grandson has lived with us for the last three years and we love him and we are coping – sometimes better than other times – but we are coping. We are the invisible carers but I know in some places in the UK we are more invisible than others. Sadly the support we get is in the lap of the gods.

Kinship care is an issue that people need to know about. I am a writer, so I thought to myself ‘what can I do to get the message out there? How can I tell people about the issue of kinship care and maybe improve support for families like ours?’ Then it came to me –  I can write a play about kinship care.

The play is called Holding Baby and is about characters that I have made up. It is fiction but it has been influenced by the people I have meet over the last three years who find themselves in a similar situation. The play is poignant and sad – but it very funny too!

How can you see the play?

The play will be produced as part of The University Of Birmingham’s Book To The Future Festival on 14 October at 7.30 and Saturday 15 October at 2pm at the Chaplaincy, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT.

This second afternoon matinee performance is especially for people outside the West Midlands to come and see it.

FREE tickets are available through the University website here.

If you want to follow the development of the production and find out more about Jan’s vision for Holding Baby, then you can follow her blog on Facebook.

You can support the project via the play’s JustGiving page.

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Why do grandparents care and why are they important? By Judith Shalkowski

Why do grandparents care and why are they important?

By Judith Shalkowski,

childsside web

There are 14 million grandparents in the UK, many of working age: even among grandparents over 50, a quarter are under 60, and 40% are under 65 (Glaser et al., 2013). 

In Britain, 17% of grandparents with a grandchild under 16 provide intensive levels of childcare of at least ten hours a week and around one in thirty provides full-time care to, or lives with a grandchild (Wellard, 2011).  Grandparents Plus: Grandparenting in Europe October 2014

Grandparents are one of the largest groups of unrecognised and unpaid resources in children’s lives. Government and local authorities do not provide support or even acknowledge this group. It’s amazing in the age where children get nursery places from age two, and maternity leave typically is up to one year, that nobody seems to be interested in ‘who’s raising the kids?’ Grandparents Plus has been raising the profile and national awareness of the role grandparent’s play since 2006.

In addition, The Wave Trust states that the first 1001 days are critical in a child’s development both emotionally and neurologically. This information has become the foundation of many government and local council objectives and outcomes.

This is where ChildsSide comes in. We believe in grandparents, in their unfailing love and dedication to their children, families and grandchildren. Grandparents too have a right to access current information on brain development, emotional connections, and to gain new practical skills and tools to help children cope and thrive in this fast-paced modern world.

We value a grandparent’s unique role of wisdom combined with empathy, understanding, love and attachment to enhance the grandchild’s emotional growth, stability and resilience. Grandparents not only provide their family with emotional support but often financial and practical help too. This delicate balance can strengthen family relationships and wellbeing, calming chaos and alleviating stress for busy parents. Increasingly, grandparents are an intrinsic part of current family life; their role, and the benefits of their enhancing it, grows in society.

ChildsSide has been awarded Big Lottery Funding for their Older Yet Wiser© Project for grandparents in Leeds.

There is no other course like Older Yet Wiser, an informative series with innovative workshops that promote the value of the modern grandparent role. The free six weeks of two hour practical workshops are for those with any caring responsibilities for grandchildren aged eight and under. The crucial foundation of the Older Yet Wiser Project features positive relationships and up to date information on child development. Topics include: feelings, communication, listening, problem-solving, engaging cooperation, child-led play, and are informed by evidence-based research on the brain within a unique resource pack.

Further programmes are being planned so check the ChildsSide website for further information.


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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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