I have been interning at Grandparents Plus since July and have learned a lot and met some wonderful people. This blog is my opportunity to raise the profile of kinship care on Blog Action Day 2012.
I will go back to the basics as some of the readers will not be familiar with the term kinship care. The best place to start is by telling you a little about Grandparents Plus, the charity which ‘champions the vital role of grandparents and the wider family in children’s lives – especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances’. In many situations this involves grandparents taking on the care of grandchildren because the child’s birth parents can no longer care for them, for example due to death or neglect from a birth parent. Grandparents Plus provides support for kinship carers through an advice and information service, and providing a free peer support network for family and friends carers. They also successfully campaign, produce research and policy briefings to ensure that kinship carers are better recognised by the government.
This autumn sees Grandparents Plus ‘Kinship Care Reality Cheque Campaign’. Working on the process has opened my eyes to the hard work that is involved in developing a successful campaign. The key idea behind this campaign is that everyone (kinship carer or not) will send their council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services a pretend “cheque” from the ‘Bank of Grandparents Plus’ to the value of £40,000. This figure represents the annual amount it would cost a taxpayer to keep a child in independent foster care for a year.
There are 200,000 kinship carers in England and Wales keeping children out of care but their role is rarely recognised by local authorities and many struggle without financial or practical support. This campaign hopes to put the issue of kinship care onto councillors’ agendas and act as a reminder that there are a group of carers in their local authority that need to be recognised and supported. There are four times as many children in kinship care as in foster care, and the children often have similar difficulties, yet foster carers usually receive much more support.
I have spoken to a number of kinship carers whose stories have touched my heart. These are carers like Laura, who took on the responsibility of her grandchildren as her daughter was misusing alcohol and drugs. She had two teenage daughters still at home but knew that her grandchildren would have been taken into care if she did not step in. Laura and her husband work, but soon fell into debt and struggle with limited space at home. They receive no extra support or money from the government. Many would think that she would have her hands full but Laura still finds time to campaign by raising awareness of the lack of support for kinship carers in the press and by meeting with MPs.
It amazes me that people can have so much going on in their lives and still have the time and energy to campaign, not just for themselves but on behalf of others. During the last couple of weeks I have been speaking to kinship carers to see if they are willing to share their story. The resounding answer was yes, they were willing to do anything to raise the profile of kinship care: not for their own benefit, for the benefit for all kinship carers who are struggling and feel disadvantaged.
In my time at Grandparents Plus I hope I have helped raise the profile of kinship care, be it in a small way and will continue to share my experience with people I meet so that they understand the important contribution of kinship carers.
Can you ask the next person you meet whether they have heard of the term kinship care? If they haven’t point them in the direction of Grandparents Plus’s website to learn a little more.