It was wonderful to meet children from Kinship Care Liverpool yesterday. It is so important we hear from children living in kinship arrangements – those living away from home as well as those who have wider family living with them. Given there is no common identifier for this group, we don’t always hear from them, so that’s why I was so keen to make sure their voices are included in my Family Review.
I wanted to hear directly from them about their ideas for how we can make their experiences better. One boy spoke about having somewhere for children living in kinship arrangements to catch their breath for short breaks with children who are having similar experiences. It would be somewhere they can relax and have fun. This is exactly the kind of child-centred, innovative idea I was hoping would come out of the session.
The young people I spoke to also said they wanted all social workers to know how to communicate with them, and their wider family. They said that sometimes they didn’t feel listened to or involved in decisions about them. As one girl said, “I might be a child, but I can still hear, I can still speak”. They thought it was really important that everyone around a young person takes the time to really listen to them in order to understand what they want and need, including which contacts in their families they value and which they don’t.
Good communication skills amongst social workers was also essential so that young people could clearly understand what kinship care was, and why their lives might be changing so much. The children I spoke with expressed frustration at having to repeat personal elements of their own life to social workers and teachers, and were strongly of the opinion that services should better speak to each other and share information so that young people in kinship care can receive the respectful and empathetic care and treatment they deserve. These points were important to the children living away from home, as well as those welcoming children into their homes and families.
Having a support network or group was also important to them. They were really pleased and proud of the work going on in Liverpool, but they wanted it to be everywhere, so that all children could benefit from this kind of fantastic support. They saw the group as a family, which included people in a similar situation to them who understood what they were talking about and where they didn’t feel judged. We spoke about their efforts to improve awareness of kinship across the country, and I was keen to hear about plans in place to celebrate National Kinship Week in October.
I loved hearing these ideas and will be reflecting on them further as the Family Review progresses. We all need to understand better what being in kinship care means for children and their families and how we can make sure they all get the support they need.