Kinship care week runs from the 3rd until 7th of October this year and is a great time to shine a spotlight on the incredible work that they do.
Kinship care is an umbrella term that includes several different care arrangements that may be in place when a child or young person is cared for by someone known to them other than their birth parent(s).
Melanie is a kinship carer to four of her grandchildren. She said, “Our first grandchild was placed with us at just five months old and his siblings quickly followed from birth. By the time the twins were placed with us we had four children under the age of 3 yrs old!
“Going through care proceedings was one of the most stressful times of our life made worse by the lack of support and acknowledgement of the enormity of what we were being asked to take on by statutory services.
“At the time I was working full time as a probation officer and my husband was managing our family business. I wasn’t entitled to maternity or adoption leave so had to continue working whilst doing night feeds with newborn twins and a waking toddler. We weren’t supported with childcare either so because I was the main wage earner I continued to work whilst husband took on the caring role meaning he couldn’t give the time needed to our business which resulted in significant hardship and eventually the loss of our business. We struggled on for some time but then I developed fibromyalgia thought to be a result of stress which resulted in me being unable to work and for the first time in our lives we found ourselves raising very young children and relying on state benefits.
“I knew then I had to make sense of what had happened to my family, it had to mean something and I knew the way to do that would be to help others going through what we had been through. So I worked extremely hard to improve my health and in 2017 founded the 1More than Grandparents’ charity which now supports over 300 families in the North East.
“My Grandchildren are amazing and they inspire me every day! They are now aged 12, 10 and the twins are 9. I am so proud of the young people they are becoming.”
When asked what her most memorable experience had been with her grandchildren was, she said, “We’ve had lots of memorable experiences but my favourite was appearing on Cbeebies on the “My Story” programme with my Grandson as Oliver and Grandma Melanie where we had to tell the Story of Grace Darling. Being on set was such fun, dressing up in period costume and we were treated like movie stars for three days. It was very exciting and an experience that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for my grandson who was a little superstar at just 5yrs old!
We asked what advice she’d give to other Kinship carers – “My advice to all Kinship carers going through care proceedings is to access local peer support groups run by kinship carers who have experience of Kinship care because their support is invaluable and they can help you through your darkest days. I also advise to seek good legal advice from solicitors specialising in Kinship care even if children’s services are saying you don’t need it. No carer should go into court without fully knowing their rights and entitlements.”