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Kinship care – love when it’s tough

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Kinship carers can be grandparents, siblings or any other relative or friend that steps in to bring up children when parents are unable to look after them. Grandparents Plus offers these carers some much needed support.

Sometimes parents, for lots of reasons, are just unable to look after their children. Under these circumstances, full of uncertainty and confusion, a relative, friend or even a neighbour can step in. That person will be known as a kinship carer.

“Kinship care is extremely important, and kinship carers are a silent, dedicated, amazing army of people who do wonderful things and prevent the child from going into care,” says Johanna, the project worker at Grandparents Plus, a a national charity that supports kinship carers in Islington.

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In Islington, research by Dinithi Wijedasa from the University of Bristol showed that there were 750 children growing up in kinship families within the borough (2017) and, as Johanna remarks, “we’re fairly sure that that number has now increased”.

The types of arrangements can vary and be formal — established after a legal order— or informal — made between the child’s parents and the relative — but they all entail difficulties and challenges.

A parent may not have been able to care for their children for reasons that could have included drug or alcohol misuse, domestic abuse, death or imprisonment, so carers are often raising children with emotional and behavioural problems. They may have suffered neglect, abuse or a chaotic early life.

Added to that, carers can also struggle financially, as sacrifices often have to be made to accommodate the new member of the household. As Johanna says, “sometimes carers will have to give up work or reduce hours in order to take the child to school, nursery, or simply to stay and look after that child”.

So, what can help?

Grandparents Plus provides information, advice and support to all kinship carers.

They help find grants to provide essential items such as furniture or bedding when the child arrives, and they provide advice and support for those who need to chat about their situation. “Our support groups are invaluable, I’m a kinship carer myself, I remember the first time that I went to a support group and the huge relief that I found in being with other carers who understood my experiences”, says Johanna.

According to Grandparents Plus, the legal system can be confusing and the support you get as a carer can vary from postcode to postcode. So they also campaign for a Kinship Care Act that recognises and supports kinship care at a national level.

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And how is Islington Giving involved?

At Islington Giving we have funded Grandparents Plus for this work for the last two years and we have recently renewed the grant for another two years.

We know that it takes time to identify people who are kinship carers, as many don’t come forward readily, “maybe because of embarrassment or just because they don’t know the resources around them”, explains Nikki, Programme Manager at Islington Giving. She adds, “It’s a long term project to find people, raise awareness around kinship care and support people through the process of raising the young people coming to them.”

You can listen Nikki explain this in her own words:

Despite the challenges kinship carers and the children they look after face, Grandparents Plus and Johanna remain positive, “our children do go through challenges but with the right support, with connections to other children they begin to understand their story, share their experiences and that helps them move on”.

Grandparents Plus runs support groups every third Wednesday of the month, where carers can come together and share their experience, concerns and exchange ideas.

Get in touch

If you or someone you know is a kinship carer and would like to come along, Grandparents Plus and Johanna will be more than happy to have you.

In this video, Johanna explains where and when you can meet other kinship carers in Islington:

Get in touch with Johanna at johanna.bernard@grandparentsplus.org.uk. Or you can contact Grandparents Plus advice service.

Continue reading news about Islingto Giving: What is it like to be a Young-Grant Maker? Maria Lawal explains her experience as one.

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