Kinship carers are family members or close friends who step in to raise children when their birth parents no longer can, usually because of parental drug or alcohol misuse, mental health problems, imprisonment or death.

They can be grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or friends and often they have to make the choice to become a kinship carer in a crisis situation – such as a call from the police or social services.

It’s a life-changing choice but most would never even consider not taking the children.

Kinship carers become ‘parents’ overnight. Often they have to give up their jobs and are plunged into poverty, living in inadequate housing. They can’t afford beds, school uniforms or activities. Often they are raising traumatised children with emotional and behavioural problems, having suffered neglect, abuse and a chaotic early life. On top of all this, they are struggling with difficult relationships with the children’s parents – who they are related to.

Why do they do it? The response is unanimous: “we just have to keep the family together”. “We don’t want the kids to go into care”. “We don’t want them to be split up”. “We don’t want them to go to strangers”. We want to give them a stable home “. “They’ve been through enough upheaval already”.  “Because we love them”.

The problems for kinship carers don’t stop there. The legal system is confusing. They are not entitled to financial or other support from the local authority and few social workers are equipped to understand the unique challenges a kinship carer faces or can offer the support they need. This means that kinship carers are often misinformed about the legal choices they should make – something that can affect them and the children for the rest of their lives.

One in 73 children in England are growing up in kinship care – that’s three times as many as are in foster care, yet kinship families are a comparatively invisible and poorly supported group. Kinship carers feel isolated, forgotten, exhausted and let down by the system: like “a volcano waiting to explode”.

To find out more about how you can help us support kinship carers please get in touch on [email protected] 020 8981 8001.

Or find out more about the issues we are campaigning to change.

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