7th October 2022

Family Review: Family Profiles kinship care

As part of our work on the Family Review, we heard from kinship care families. Kinship care is when a child lives in a family arrangement with a relative or friend instead of their parents.

This Kinship Care Week and we wanted to highlight one of the ways these families contributed to our research by sharing their Family Profile – a snapshot of what families means to them, their strengths, the challenges they may have experienced, how they like to spend their time and the support that they value the most.

This week we have also shared resources for Kinship Care Week and reflections from kinship carers.

I have been married to my wife for 23 years, and we are kinship carers to our grandson, who we’ve had for over three years. My wife is disabled, so I have been caring for her for 13 years. Communication is that what makes life tick. If you don't communicate, you don't talk. If you don't talk, you're split. That’s important because it can be difficult caring for children, and the stress and strains of today's environment. We have found being a kinship carer for our grandson difficult because, as a parent you get responsibility for them as standard, but we had to ask if we could go get a haircut or if we could take him to certain places. When we were first asked to look after him, we were driving 200 miles a week to take him to school and back, and getting no financial assistance in that, or for food and clothing. It does take a toll on you financially. It’s also the practical things you need support with too – he was hitting and kicking us and calling us names because of the trauma he’s been through. Luckily we’ve since had some emotional support from school and some financial support through the Council, but ideally we’d like to be treated as equal to parents in the eyes of social services. I feel that the way society, particularly the media, treat kinship carers is bad – they make us out to be parasites always calling for more support. But we’re not, we’re trying to care for loved ones. If we didn’t they’d cost more money to the state being in care. Children need investment and it just doesn’t feel like the Government is doing that. We access support through a local kinship support group so I’ve met a lot of people from different backgrounds which has been helpful. It’s being able to talk to people going through similar things and be given advice about it. It’s reassuring hearing from people who tell you that it gets easier.

I am a mother to four children aged 33, 31, 27 and 25. I am also a grandmother/kinship carer to two grandsons aged 11 and 12 who we live with. One of the strengths of our family is that we look out for each other no matter what. There are no 'step' or 'half' siblings - brothers and sisters are just that! We make ‘blended' work for us. Unfortunately my mobility has worsened to the point that I am now a wheelchair user. Both of my grandsons are neurodivergent, so it has been very difficult getting the support and school placements they need. My husband’s health has also suffered since he was hospitalised with Covid, and we have both struggled with our mental health. Luckily, our boys now have the support in place and appropriate placements. We have also accessed SNAP Cymru and the Carers Support Team for help where needed. It seems that most support services are underfunded and overstretched.

I live with my four grandchildren who I have a special guardianship for. Their mother died a few years ago, and their father isn’t part of the family now. I do everything for them, trying to keep them on the straight and narrow. It is very difficult, I love them very much but they’ve been through a lot of trauma. I stepped in to take care of them because I didn’t want them to go into care and be split up. My eldest grandson has a lot of health issues and we had a real problem with his education. Luckily, when I moved Local Authorities the new one stepped in and found him a school. We did have social services involved, but I never felt they got to the root of the cause. I had to do all the looking for help, going to different local authorities and SENDIASS. We had so many different social workers involved after their mum died, they got fed-up having to tell their story over and over again. By the end they just didn’t want to speak to anyone or build relationships. They were constantly being rejected and let-down by adults. Most services I’ve spoken to gave empathy and sympathy, then they’d say they’d look into it and ring back but never did. It was mental torture. My grandson went off the rails badly at one point - refusing to go to school. I did get Multisystemic Therapy (MST) to help us cope. I am part of the kinship campaign – I don’t know why we can’t be treated the same way as a foster carer. My daughter died, If I hadn’t taken them on they’d be in care and split up. The issues they have now would be ten-fold if they were with strangers. I’m doing everything I can. These children would suffer later in life, which would be more of a cost to the Government. I need more support and help. Financially I get a payment, but it ends in October which is 2 years since the special guardianship started. As I moved Local Authorities there’s a slight discrepancy over who is responsible for paying me. I had a full-time job which I had to give up and I’m on universal credit now. If in October I don’t get any payment, I don’t know how I’ll survive with 4 children, rising gas and electricity prices. I’m dreading it. I’m trying to give them the best life I can, it is difficult but if I don’t have the money on top of everything else I can’t provide them with any nice treats. I am really concerned about what will happen.