I care for two children, Scarlette aged 10 and Dillon aged 9. They are my ex-husband’s grandchildren.
When she was 17 days old Scarlette was found to have numerous non accidental injuries, and after some time in hospital and a brief time in foster care she came to me and my husband on an interim care order at 4 months old. During care proceedings Scarlette’s mum fell pregnant with Dillon. He came to us at 10 hours old.
It was extremely scary at first as I don’t have any children of my own. I was working full-time and was struggling to juggle work and the children as my husband worked away quite a lot.
During the first 6 months we had three different social workers and the assessments were intrusive and difficult, but we got through it. It was an emotional roller coaster and it was suggested that maybe it would be best for one of us to quit work. I felt under a lot of pressure from social services, and so I left my job for the sake of the children. To date, that is still one of my main regrets.
A few years ago husband decided he couldn’t cope and he left us. It turned out the reason he was away so often was because he was back in a relationship with the children’s maternal grandma. The children are supposed to see their birth parents and maternal grandma four times a year, however since all this came to light we have had no contact. My ex-husband was taking the children out once a fortnight, but it became apparent that he was taking them to see their maternal grandma and mum.
This became a turning point as both the children’s behaviour deteriorated. Scarlette was particularly bad and she suffers from early developmental trauma, anxiety and attachment difficulties. Her behaviour has been extremely challenging over the years and at this point we were in crisis.
My ex-husband had family who were all willing to help care for the children, however over time this has dwindled to nothing. My own mum does try when she can, but she looks after my uncle who has dementia.
It was, and still is, a very isolating and lonely place to be.
Until recently we had no interaction with social services. I contacted them for help, and now things are still challenging but slowly getting better. For example, they run Mockingbird, a project where an experienced foster carer supports kinship families. She takes the kids for day trips so that I can have a bit of respite. Their therapeutic team referred Scarlette to The Think Like A Pony project which has been a god send. Finding funding has been challenging, but Grandparents Plus helped us to find funding for a further six sessions.
Although we were getting help for the children there was still no one I could speak to who understood. Grandparents Plus recommended a support group in my area which I have been attending on a Wednesday afternoon. It turns out I had met a couple of them before in various training courses I had been on. The group is a great support and it’s good to speak to people who are in a similar situation.
If I could go back and start again I would change a few things. I would have kept my job and maybe gone part-time. I would have made sure there was something in place regarding support for the children and facilitating contact with their parents, plus financial help. I have learned to lower my expectations of friends and family – that sounds awful but people make promises and fail to deliver.
The main thing about being a kinship carer is the joy the children bring to my life. It is challenging but I have tried my very best to educate myself so that I can help them. I am their one constant and their safe place and nothing they will ever do will stop me from loving and caring for them.