Our Founder, Jean Stogdon’s interest in the role of the wider family in raising children began in 1969, when at the age of 40, she enrolled as a social work trainee. A successful career in social work followed, during which, as area head in the London Borough of Camden she was active in the design of the council’s child-protection services.
After retiring in 1988 Jean became a children’s guardian – appointed by the courts to represent a child’s interests in legal cases. She spent 10 years doing this but was increasingly troubled by how readily local authorities placed children in care homes or put them up for adoption instead of looking to family members first, and this being despite the 1989 Children’s Act decree that they should first consider placing the child within the wider family.
A partnership was forged
Lord Young, described as “Britain’s most brilliant social entrepreneur”, influential in designing the welfare state in the 1940s, and co-author of the seminal 1957 work Family and Kinship in East London shared Jean’s interest in the role of wider family in raising children and a great partnership was forged.
In 1999, on research trip to the USA, Jean studied the experiences of African American grandparents whose adult children had become unable to care for their own offspring as a result of HIV/AIDS or drug use; the grandchildren were commonly placed in the care of strangers, many of them white. Jean became even more convinced that grandparents and other extended family members should be the preferred choice as providers of care to children whose parents cannot do so themselves.
In 2001 Grandparents Plus was created
With the shared belief that the role of the wider family should be better recognised, valued and supported by social workers, policy makers and other professionals, Jean and Michael co-founded Grandparents Plus in 2001.
The aim was to raise awareness of the role of extended family in raising children who couldn’t live with their parents.
Reflecting on the charity’s mission in a later interview, Jean spoke of the need to improve social work systems, so that when a child was removed from their parents:
“You look first at the extended family. You must exhaust the extended family before you move on to make other plans for a child. It’s what children ask us to do.”