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A Kinship Carers’ Resource: Using Resilience Ideas in Practice

Becoming a kinship carer can be a hard job. It may well be harder than anything that you have ever done before.

“We are not foster carers who are strangers to the children they care for and have no link to primary carers. Kinship carers have a bond and tie to their grandchild,
niece, or nephew and to the parents of their children.”

Kinship carers care for grandchildren, nieces, nephews or children who are friends of their family. Due to difficult circumstances and social services involvement they have taken on the caring role of children who cannot be looked after by their birth parents.

Often people become kinship carers in isolation. Grandparents Plus has identified that there are growing numbers of isolated people who become kinship carers. They estimate 200,000 grandparents in the UK are caring for their grandchildren full-time. Kinship carers do not receive statutory government support.

While there are a number of kinship carers who do not have any involvement with children’s services, this book is written specifically for kinship carers who are looking after children who have been removed from the care of their birth parents following the intervention of social workers. Children in these situations will have experienced multiple disadvantages. In their early lives they are likely to have experienced some form of abuse or neglect. This can make the work of a kinship Carer more challenging, as the children themselves are likely to need extra support and understanding to enable them to trust that the adults in their lives can be relied on to help them through the complexities of childhood and adolescence. Becoming a kinship carer often coincides with a time of crisis and confusion for the whole family.

In these situations the ‘doing’ of kinship care requires carers to strongly commit themselves to being there for the child. They need to be able to understand the impact of early life experiences and be able to provide the practical and emotional support which can enable the child to feel secure enough to engage in helpful relationships, to make the best of learning opportunities and to have a sense of themselves as someone who is loved and who is worthy of love.

Kinship care is what carers learn to do in relationships with others, most importantly with the child they are caring for, but also with others who are important for the child such as birth parents, siblings, extended family members, friends and teachers. It involves trying to build a supportive network around the child and helping the child to be able to use that network in the best way possible.