Susan Hunter on why we should value kinship carers
All across Scotland, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and family friends care for children because, for a variety of reasons, their parents cannot.
People who look after children in these kinds of circumstances are known as kinship carers.
For the last few years the Scottish government has funded the Citizens Advice network to run a project offering targeted advice and support for kinship carers.
When I took on the role of project coordinator for this service I thought it would be quite straightforward.
I had worked in the voluntary sector for the past 12 years and thought I knew about kinship care. How naïve!
kinship carers are often overlooked and undervalued by society
Within a week of starting in the role I was waking in the night, wondering how I would cope if I had to take on what kinship carers do. How would my life change if I had the care of my grandchildren, nieces or nephews or the children of my friends? As much as I love my own grandchildren, the idea of having full time care of them was unimaginable to me.
Most kinship carers take on their role out of a sense of love, loyalty and devotion for the child they care for, but this does not make kinship care easy or straightforward.
To ensure the wellbeing of children in kinship care it is imperative that support is made available from the moment they are welcomed into a kinship care family.
Support agencies need to work together towards allaying the many hardships kinship carers can face when they take on their role, such as having to give up their work, their homes, their savings and the life they lived previously.
As with any form of care, the wellbeing of kinship care children is intrinsically linked to the support that is made available to kinship carers to help them do this.
In my opinion, kinship carers are often overlooked and undervalued by society. The role they take on, often in often difficult situations both practically and emotionally is invaluable and they must be celebrated and appreciated.
The Scottish Government states: “We recognise the important role played by kinship carers in providing secure, stable and nurturing homes for children who cannot be cared for by their birth parents.”
The citizens advice network across Scotland is here to help carers, working with our local CAB advisers and other agencies to deliver solutions that will make a difference to people who are in this situation.
For Kinship Care Week in Scotland this year, events are being organised for kinship carers where local agencies will promote services.
There will be workshops and taster sessions where kinship carers can gain information on a range of topics. There will also be a film launch by Star Catchers and we will provide new literature to kinship carers so that they know what support is available to them.
Kinship Care Week Scotland will raise awareness of the selfless support provided to some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children by kinship carers.
For further information email [email protected]
Susan Hunter is the project co-ordinator for the Kinship Care Advice Service for Scotland.