Title Page Numbers
Introduction 3 – 4
Literature Review 5 – 8
Research Methodology 9 – 14
Findings 15 – 23
Discussion 24 – 26
Conclusion 27 – 28
Bibliography 29 – 31
Appendix 1: Project Proposal Form
Appendix 2: Co-researchers Consent Form
Appendix 3: Transcript of Interview.
The term Kinship Carers is one which, many, but not all will be familiar with. For the purpose of clarity I will outline the definition of the term that will be referred to throughout this research.
‘Kinship Carers is a friend or relative who is raising children because they unable safely to live with their parents.’
The aim of this to investigate the lived experience of an woman, who had taken on the full time care of her Grandchildren, exploring the impact, if any, this has had on her plans,dreams and ambitions that she held for her retirement.
My co-researcher in this study is a widow in her mid 60s, a retired special needs support worker with two grown up children; a son and a daughter and for the past 2 years she has been a full time Kinship Carer for her son’s two daughters, now aged 5 and 7 years old. She is full of life, creativity, ambition and has a desire to make a difference which is evident by the fact that, as a relatively new member of the Kinship Carers Group in Liverpool, she has quickly established herself as a key member who is ambitious to grow a network of informal and formal support across the city.
My co-researcher wished to be know by her real name, Sally. Throughout this study she will be referred to as Sally or Co-researcher.
My interest in this subject area came from a personal experience which began over 25 years ago when I become a Kinship Carer for my sisters child. I was married, in my early 30s, had two small children, my Mother was living with in our family due to early onset vascular dementia, and a very unwell angry sister, who persecuted us on a daily basis: screaming, shouting threatening outside our home, at the school gates, in the local shopping area. This was peppered with physical attacks on myself, my partner and threats to my children. In the middle of all this was a 3 year old little girl who had been subjected to physical, emotional and psychological abuse. I sought help and support from the Local Authority, police, probation, mental health services and housing and discovered a tangled web of conflicting mis-information, value based judgments and disinterest.
I was fit, healthy, held a professional role in social care and had a supportive partner. But be that as it may, I found the whole experience; exhausting, humiliating, manipulative, flustrating. The overall impression I was left with then and now, was that whenever I sought support – the decision, appeared, to be driven by individual’s philosophical, ideological and political agenda about the ‘Family’ and what they thought Family should do – as opposed to taking into account the welfare of the kinship child or the impact on my birth children.
Coupled this with the pressures on Local Authorities, which include insufficient fundings, targets to reduce the numbers of Children Looked After, Children on Child Protection Plan or Children in Need, and in more recent years the introduction of the Government drive to increase the numbers and speed of Adoptions, it is not difficult to understand why little progress has been made in providing a coordinated national response to supporting Kinship Care.
I remember thinking, if I as a qualified Social Worker can not navigate this system, how difficult must it be for others without this background. This drove me to become part of a small voluntary organisation – Kinship Carers Liverpool, which I have maintained for a quarter of a century. On a daily basis , albeit anecdotal, I hear of Kinship Families being forced into poverty, needs of children and their kinship carers going unassessed, Kinship Carers being coerced to make decisions on legal status of the placement. This often resulting in stress and strain on the families, conflict, damaged children, ill carers, placement breakdowns and ultimately very expensive crisis intervention.
A recent event ignited my interest in an area of the life of a Kinship Carer, which I was to soon realise had not been explored or researched to any great depth. I was attending Liverpool Kinship Carers public Annual General Meeting 2017, when a Kinship Carer stood up and spoke very movingly, articulately and in depth about her journey to becoming a Kinship Carer for her three Grandchildren. It was a complicated and confused ‘story’ filled with many twist and turns, which is indicative of many Kinship Carers experiences. At one point she ‘wistfully’ spoke very briefly about how this decision to ‘take on’ the children had had a dramatic impact on her longer life plans. She swallowed hard, and then proceeded to talk about the battles with the local authority, her daughter and then the practicalities of the day to day ‘struggles’ that she endures as a woman in her late 60s raising three very active and emotionally ‘damaged’ children. She ended with a wry smile and said
‘I am just knackered’
This narrative remained in my thoughts for sometime, I was moved by the the tiny space she gave to her big dreams. It was this that developed my interest and I was delighted to have the opportunity to explore this further via my research project at The Manchester Institute of Psychotherapy (Mip).
The aim of this research, therefore, is to determine what does happen to a Kinship Carers sense of Self when they take on the responsibility of children, who are not going to reach independence until the Kinship Carer are likely to be in their 80th decade of life. What does happen to the hopes, dreams, wishes, ambitions, plans of the Kinship Carers?- where do they go?- are they ever discussed? are they grieved for? or do they get swallowed deep down inside oneself?
There have been a number of research studies undertaken with regards to Kinship Care and Kinship Carers in the UK and the USA, primarily the research tended to focused on aspects that were concerned with the the needs and outcomes of the children, comparisons of placement stability between Kinship Care and Local Authority Foster Care, the legal status of the children, and how this impacts on access to services and emotional, practical and financial support.
In the UK, The Family Rights Group, Kinship Care Alliance and Grandparents Plus are the key organisations where almost all of the literature and research into Kinship Care has its origins. As part of this study I consider and focused on the research of the ‘three UK giants’ on this subject, but I also looked to the research that has been undertaken by counterparts in the USA and Australia. Of note was that despite the fact that we are on different continents with different legals systems and cultures- It was apparent that the reasons Kinship Families are formed are the same, the outcomes for the children are similar and many of the issues faced by Kinship Carers are replicated.
According to The Kinship Care Guide for England, In the UK there are as many as 300,000 children living with Kinship Carers, this estimate from the Family Rights Group cited in Saunders H and Selwyn J (2008) Evaluation of an informal kinship care team, Adoption and Fostering, Summer Vol 32: 2 pp 31-42
The Family Rights Group, found that in the English census of 2011 there were 152,910 children under the age of 18 were living in Kinship arrangements, of which 40% lived in the 20% most income deprived communities with 51% living with a grandparent, 23% with an older sibling, and the rest are living with aunts, uncles, cousins and other relatives.
As one would expect the numbers of Kinship Carers in USA are much higher, according to Dr B Broad (2007), there is an estimated 2.1 million children in the USA being raised solely by Grandparents. Of these 90% are ‘informal arrangements’ – which means that they do not get any financial state support.
In the UK the types of placements that children live in are wide a varied, for the purpose of this research I will concentrate on the UK and provide a very brief definition of type of placement and the implications of the legal status each one:
Informal arrangements: made by the parents with close family relatives, or by default because the child’s parents has died or they have abandoned the child. The Kinship Carers does not have parental responsibility (PR)
Looked After Child: by the local authority and placed with approved Kinship Foster Carers. PR is held by the Local Authority, the Kinship Carer will receive a fostering Allowance.
Residence order: order granted by the court the Kinship Carer will have shared PR with parents, they may or may not receive an Allowance support from the Local Authority.
Special Guardianship: is a more secure order than a residence order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it unless they have the permission of the court to do so. They may or may not receive an Allowance support from the Local Authority.
Child Arrangements Orders: determine where the child lives. It gives shared PR between Kinship Carer and the parents. The carer may or may not get an Allowance.
Pre Adoption Placement: In Kinship Placement with plan for by a relative or friend. PR held by the Local Authority, Carers may or may not receive an allowance
The reality is we do not know how many informal arrangement that there are in the UK, but we do know that Special Guardianship is the most used legal order and this has risen significantly over the last decade. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice family court figures showed that more than 5,300 orders were made.
‘This is first time the number of special guardianship orders surpassed 5,000 in a single year and represents an 81% rise in the total use of the order since 2011.’
Stevenson L 01/04/16 communitycare.co.uk
Why are these children living in these variety of arrangements? In a survey of Grandparent Kinship Carers carried out by Grandparents Plus in 2016 the most common reason given for taking on the care of the grandchildren were parental drug or alcohol (47%) and child abuse and neglect (28%) followed by mental, physical or disability of the parent (16%) death of a parent (16%)
Why is Kinship Care considered a much preferred option for these children? There appears to be an accepted held opinion that children will normally find it easier to form attachments to kinship carers than to someone they did not know previously. The theory of attachment and bonding are embedded in the reasons for these findings. Also of significance is the it is usually much more possible for children to keep contact with birth parents and other family members, even when they have been through traumatic experiences. Equally of importance is that it can sometimes be easier for children to explain to their friends without causing difficulties. Living with Grandparents or other family members is deemed as more easily explained than more normal than living with foster carers.
Cathy Ashley, the chief executive of Family Rights Group, said:
“…children brought up by family and friend carers tend to feel more secure, have fewer emotional and behavioural issues and do better academically than those in unrelated care.”
Quoted by Dugan E (14/03/15) Indepenent.co.uk
Although, much of the focus of the research has been on the outcomes for children, there had been a spot light on the physical and emotional health consequence for Grandparents caring full time for their Grandchildren. However, there appears to have been, little attention given to the psychological and emotional impact on Grandparents and other Kinship Carers. I was unable to find any study or research that considered the; hopes, dreams, plans, aspirations and ambitions of these Carers- their ‘lost future’.
Maybe, this is due to campaigners ambitions to ‘convince’ the Government of the day, that supporting this ‘hidden army’ of people who are caring for some of the most vulnerable children in our society. – that it is not only the ‘right’ thing to do morally, but also that it has significant fiscal value to society, particularly when one considers that an independent fostering placement for one child in care costs at least £40,000 per annum compared.
But why do people continue to put themselves forward to provide a home to friends or family members? The research shows that the reasons Kinship Carers continually ‘choose’ to provide care to their kith and kin are wide a varied. There are competing and conflicting factors such as; the love for the children, wanting the best for the children, desire to ensure safety, keep child out of care system and in the
family, sense of duty, expectation from others, pressure, and guilt.
In this research study many of these competing and conflicting reasons were evident. In some respects, it felt that asking my co-researcher to talk about her pre Kinship life plans, was seen as a bit of an indulgence. There, appeared, to be no space, time consideration, or even words that could be afforded to the plans she had once held so dear. Maybe this is why there is a lack of research in this area; If we liken this to Maslow hierarchy of needs – How can one be expected to envisage or mourn a forgotten future when each day is physically, emotionally and psychologically filled to the brim with surviving.
Research Methodology ,
“The study of an oppressive reality is not carried out by experts, but by the objects of repression, people who before were objects of research become subjects of their own research action” (Mies cited in Hammersley (1993) p64)
The goal of qualitative phenomenological research is to describe a “lived experience” of a phenomenon. In this paper my intention was to understand and articulate the experience of becoming a Kinship Carer and the impact of this on any future life plans that they had made. As this is a qualitative analysis of narrative data from a taped interview, methods to analyse the findings are quite different from more traditional or quantitative methods of research. Essentially, you are focused on meaning, the meaning of the experience, as opposed to comparing, contrasting and finding meaning in from numerical data in order to reach a conclusion.
My approach was to undertake a phenomenological enquiry into the lived experience of a Kinship Carer, the fact that the pool of potential co-researcher were all women was to be the overriding consideration which influence my decision to utilise a feminist approach to this research study. This less structured research strategy, I hope would avoid any hierarchical relationship between researcher and co-researcher. I agree with Oakley (1981) who beholds that formal,
“The only morally defensible way for a feminist to conduct research with women in through a non-hierarchical relationship which she is prepared to invest some of her own identity.” (Oakley cited in Roberts (1981) p115)
This also fitted well with the course of study I was undertaking, that being and Integrative transactional analysis psychotherapy were the relationship is a key component to the intervention.
Another factor, which I feel, played a very important part in my research was the similarities between myself and the potential co-researchers. I believed that this help towards breaking down any ‘vertical relationship’ which sometimes occurs between the researcher and the researched. I am a working class woman, who has experience of being a Kinship Carer, and I share the same physical environment as many of the potential co- researchers and had many parallel experiences with statutory services and extended family members.
For many years feminist have fervently argues that the ‘vertical relationship’ between researcher and research object should be replaced by a style of work which is based on cooperation, mutual respect and interdependence. The terminology of co-researcher and collaboration fits neatly with this feminist approach to research.
Equally, Oakley (1981) and Stanley and Wise (1983) believe that by bringing yourself into the research it goes some way to equalizing the research process and breaking down the researcher/researched division. Miles believes that this can be further achieved when interviewing women, by using what she describes as ‘conscious partiality’ through partial identification with the research objects (cited in Hammersley (1993) p68
Although, there was a ‘power’ imbalance, which I could not ignore, in that I was in my 4th year of a Transactional Analysis diploma, I was the one conducting the research study, with more control over the end results. That being said, I attempted to overcome this by offering any co-researcher confidenitaly, the right to withdraw consent upto 4 weeks before the submission date and a copy of the final research paper.
My research proposal and methods, had been approved by my research supervisor Karen Burke at Mips before I made any approach to potential co-researchers.
For many students undertaking a piece of research, one of the major difficulties that they have to overcome is ‘gaining access’ to the ‘population’ or co-researcher that they intend to study. I therefore, must acknowledge the through my involvement with Liverpool Kinship Carers as Chairperson of the management board, I was in an extremely privileged position, for this gave me direct access to a pool of potential co-researchers, without any real restrains being imposed upon me by a ‘Gatekeeper’.
However, during the preparation stages I found that I had to consider carefully some of the ethical consideration of this study. For example, the Kinship Carers in the group, many had known me for some time, I therefore had to acknowledge and address the possibility that this may influence their response to my request for a co-researcher to participate in this study. My initial approach had to take into account the possibility that some of the women may have felt obliged to take part in the research.
After giving this some extensive through and discussion with the Kinship Carers Project Manager, I decided that the most appropriate and anti-oppressive approach method would be to address the Group prior to their monthly pamper day. This, I believed would give the group as a whole the opportunity to object, and thus taking away any personal responsibility that the carers may have felt if I approach them individually.
I followed this meeting up with a email, sent out by the Project Manager, which outlined in more detail the purpose of the research, Appendix 1
The first person to respond to the email was a woman called Sally, (her real name by wished she wanted to be known). Sally contacted the Project co-ordinator who in turn passed her phone number to me. I rang Sally, explained the process, agreed to email her a consent form for her to consider and agreed to ring her in a couple of days to check if she had any questions and if she had made a decision to be my co-researcher. Sally agreed to take part in the research and we duly made an appointment to meet.
At the start of the meeting I explained the following to Sally:
Confidentiality: the research report would be read by the MIPs makers, and possibility a third party for standardisation and herself,should she wish.
Only with prior ‘informed’ consent would the report be shared with other interested parties – such as – Kinship Carers Liverpool, Kinship Alliance, Grandparents Plus.
Anonymity: Names and places could be changed if that is the wish of the co-researcher.
Right to withdraw: the co-research could withdraw consent at any point.
Recording of the interview: The interview would be recorded and would securely stored and would be deleted on submission.
Right to access: the co-research could read the script and the report at any time they wished.
Impact: if during the interview any strong feeling or emotions were evoked – I would offer a second meeting to debrief more fully or make a referral to a counsellor if necessary.
Sally confirmed that she understood and agreed with all these points and signed the consent form (Appendix 2)
In preparation for the interview with my co-researcher – I was keen to double check that my recording equipment was working. I decided to take two devices : a secure audio app on an iphone and a battery operated dictaphone.
I was feeling somewhat confident but before going into the home of my co-researcher I did a last minute double check I was horrified to discover that I could not actually open my phone. Spend 15 minutes trying everything possible. Then breathed a sigh of relief – and thought – okay, plan B my battery operated dictaphone.
I arrived at the home of the co-researcher and introduced myself – recapped on the documentents that I had previously email to her – check if she was happy to continue, she signed the agreement that she had previously had a copy of via email.
To my surprise her adult daughter came into the room – but despite this my co-research was insistent that she wanted to continue with the interview. But I felt my co-researcher was somewhat a little distracted as her daughter came into the room on a couple of occasions during the initial stages. However, despite my suggestion that we rearranged the co-researcher was wanted to proceed and the interview took place.
At the end of the interview I thanked both the co-research and her daughter. I left that house and immediately went to the Carphone Warehouse – In a rather flustered and somewhat anxious state I handed my phone to a nice young man – who almost instantaneously handed it back to me – saying its is now open. As you can imagine I was totally amazed. He then informed me that Apple had recently introduced a new ‘fix’ which blocked the phone if you had held your finger on the screen for more than 5 seconds – the solution was to hold the start button continuously for 4 seconds !
I proceeded to go home – keen to see how the battery operated dictaphone had captured our interview. It had worked – so then decided to play the interview and record it onto my phone app. The process commenced – However, it was raining heavily outside – and I thought it would be best not to continue with this transfer of recording in the conservatory with the rain falling heavily and noisily on the roof.
I stop the dictaphone – and disaster – I managed to delete the whole interview.
Eventually after composing myself – I dared to call my co-researcher, I explained what had happened, she willining agreed to undertake the interview again. She explained that as her daughter was most likely going to still be living with her and asked could we do the interview away from the home.
In some respects I think she welcomed the opportunity to meet with me again and redo the interview without having to consider her daughter being in the home. We agreed to meet in a local Costa Coffee. The interview took place and apart from the hissing of the coffee machines and crying baby and a barking dog, it went quite well.
I took some time to transcribe the interview – but that fact that I had undertaken the interview twice did enable to me recall what had been said when the tape was not very audible.
I firmly believe that this research was undertaken as a project of collaboration with the myself and my co-research Sally.
Findings / Analysis
In analysing the recorded interview, I listen to the recording a number of time before proceeding to typing up the discussion. I spent time listening to the tape and re-reading the transcript a number of times. I did question my need to revisit the tape and the transcript so many times; was I doing this to generate a outcome with the aim of meeting my desired results, as intimated by, Finlay, or was it simply part of a necessary process when conducting phenomenological research.
‘The analysis process is often a messy one, involving both imaginary leaps of intuition as well as systematic working through of many iterative versions’
It became very apparent that despite my desired intentions to undertake this piece of research on the lived experience of a Kinship Caring having to forgo future plans, dreams and ambitions, my co-research, was much more comfortable talking about the needs of the children, the battles with the local authorities and her plans to support others in similar situations. In some respects, it felt that Sally was actually modelling what she needed for herself. She, appeared, to long for nurturing, support and care, and in the absence of this, she had throughout her life developed a strong sense of duty to provide this for others particularly her family.
Sally demonstrated this strong commitment to keeping the children in the family in order to secure their heritage beautifully in her statement,
it’s the best thing for the children, they don’t lose everything like if they are adopted they lose their identity, they lose their name, they may lose each other if there are siblings involved” (26)
The transcript did not follow a linear process i.e. past present and future, rather we would skip from one area to another. However, eventually through my studying of the transcript and the tape, I began to see themes emerge and for ease of reading I have broken these down into there dominate themes:
- Sallys history
- Dreams coming true
- Journey of proving self as ‘good enough;
- Forgotten future
Sally is now 67 years old, some 2.5 years ago the Family Court in Hastings granted her a Special Guardianship Orders (SGO) in respect of her two Granddaughters then aged 3 and 5 years old. This order gave Sally full time custody of the children and shared parental responsibility with the childrens’ mother and father.
At the time of the order being granted Sally was living alone in her own home, for which she had recently finished paying off her mortgage. She was estranged from her son, her daughter was living in London and relationships with a number of extended family had become very tense. Sally was reliant on a state pension, which was being topped up with pension credit, neither the court or Children Services proposed a package of support which could have included a SGO financial allowance. But instead she was advised to claim child benefit and tax credit.
Sally, describe how for all her life has been a caregiver; as a child she explained how she had cared for her mother from a young age, she then went on to married a man who had older children for whom she then cared for. She had her own two children, and soon after her parents became ill, and she cared for both of them in through their old age and then their illnesses until they passed away. Despite the fact that she was divorced from her husband for many years, when he took ill with cancer she nurse him for a number of years until his death. Then she proceeded to take on a career that was centred around caring for others.
Sally, entered the world of social care as a professional caregiver, and in the last stage of her career she was looking after people with learning difficulties and supporting them to independence. She talked fondly of this time in her life and her admiral determination to make sure that they were provided for appropriately. Although Sally was able to take retirement at aged 60 she decided to continue working part time until she was ‘63/64’ years old, explaining that she wanted to ensure that the people she was caring for were in a secure place,
I was trying to do is to make sure each of the people I worked with were securely in a place where they could move forward without me. (8)
However, Sally eventually reach a stage in her life where she felt comfortable to retire; her adult daughter was then in a settled relationship living down south, and her son, she thought, was happily living with his partner and their two children in London.
Dreams Coming True:
Sally explained that she had longed to travel, although she did not really like to go on holiday. In many respects it seemed that Sally through holidays without a task or purpose,were a waste of time. Then excitingly an opportunity presented itself to Sally; she had some friends who had moved to Italy the previous year and taken over an old farm house, which they were in the middle of renovating. They had been aware of Sally’s interests in organic home grown food and sustainable living – and consequently they contacted Sally and asked if she would be interested in joining them on their farm in Italy. They offered Sally board and lodgings in return for her skills and expertise to help them establishing a an organic vegetable herb/kitchen garden at the farm house.
When Sally spoke about this, I observed her become physically animated, sat forward in her chair, her eyes become bright – and in some respect almost relived the experience when she said,
‘… it was like the answer to my prayers, because I thought to myself, well I don’t have a great deal of money; I have just got a basic state pension and even that’s topped up with pension credits, but I thought well I wouldn’t actually need it’ (12)
It was very apparent that Sally so longed for this opportunity – She went on to, excitedly, explained that she accepted their offer quickly, and then almost immediately started to make plans to sell or rent out her home. She also spoke to other friends living in France, and her plans and ambitions began to expand – she would also travel to France and stay with friends there – under a similar ‘skills share’ bartering arrangement. These plans also included a possible trip to Canada.
Sally, excitedly told me that she asked her friends in Italy when they wanted her to come over – they replied ‘as soon as possible!’
‘ So I checked my passport, which had just expired. So I went down paid the extra, because I didn’t want to even wait a short period and then I got the information about the girls through.’ (14)
This was the first time that I observed Sally displayed any real sense of how this had impacted on her emotionally. In many respect there appeared to be a feeling of of hopelessness and futility; an acceptance that her plans and ambitions were going to be seriously compromised. Sally, rather flippantly, said that they ‘ went on hold’, It was as if she had started to resign herself to the possibility that her future was going to be very different to the one that she had, only very recently began to envisage. been planning for.
Journey of proving self as Good Enough
Sally said that initially, she had not comprehended that the situations with the children was so desperate, she did not realise that she was going to have to consider becoming their fulltime carer. Moreover, she believed that she would be going to be provide time limited help, supporting the local authority plan to help their Mother to be able to care for the children safely. Sally offered to take the children to give the parents time to sort themselves out, she then offered to have the children and their Mother move into her home until she was able to provide sole care for them.
However, after going to visit the children, their Mother and the Social Workers, it soon became apparent to Sally that this was not going to be an option. The Social Worker’s assessments were very clear, in their view neither parent, individually or as a couple had the capacity to keep the children safe. Thus the application had already been made to the courts for a Care Order and the children were to been placed in the care of Local Authority Foster Carers, with a plan for Adoption. This was not something that Sally had been expecting. Adoption, was something that she desperately wanted to avoid.
Sally explained that she then had to start the journey of ‘convincing’ the Courts and the Local Authority they she was a viable alternative to the Care System and ultimately Adoption.
What was evident, was that Sally felt that she had no option but to present herself as having no ‘needs’ – that she was absolutely fully capability of providing the care for the children without any financial, emotional or practical support. That she could manage the contact arrangements between the children and their parents; which had to be done separately. She felt under pressure to have to ‘prove’ herself.
‘you’re trying to sell yourself all the time as being good enough.’ (44)
It is without doubt, absolutely correct, that anyone who is putting themselves forward to provide long term care of children should undergo thorough, rigorous and robust assessments of their capacity to provide a stable loving home that will take the children safely into adulthood. However, if this creates a situation were the potential Kinship Carer ‘feels’ that they are not able to be ‘realistic and honest’ about theirs and the children’s long term needs, for fear of not being ‘approved’ is clearly not in the best interest of either party.
Sally reported that she would say things like: I can manage, it won’t cost much to feed a couple extra , I grow all my own stuff, I’ve got a home there’s room it won’t take much to accommodate 2 children.
Eventually it was agreed by the Court, that during the proceeding the children could be placed with their Grandmother. Sally was clearly delighted with this decision and she had expressed her willingness to facilitate and supervising the contact between the children and their parents – who were at this point now living separately. Sally would have to take a train trip to Hastings with the two children, facilitate the contact and then make her way to London where she would stay overnight with family members. Sally did not like imposing on family but felt she had no option, she could not afford hotels and she could not physically manage a round trip.
‘One got travel sick…. One trip was a nightmare …. If they both fallen asleep
how the heck could I have got of the train’ (62)
Sally experience of tension with extended family mirrored what has been found in other research. For Sally, she explained that she felt having, herself and two young children ‘squeezing in’ can be difficult. She also said she thought that extended family were worried about taking sides or concerned that they may themselves be asked to help out or step in. One can only imagine how difficult it must be to be physically and emotionally exhausted and a the same time having to take into consideration what how other people of viewing the situation, while caring for the physical and emotional needs of two traumatized very young children
Coupled with this, Sally talked about the feelings of isolation that she felt during this period, she had not only become estranged from members of her extended family and she had also felt removed from her social life,
‘Friends, your own lifestyle hobbies … your peers are doing different thing’ (68)
In a reflective phase, Sally was able to say that she was able to see the impact of her decision, and in some respects it appears that she now feels that she was in some way manipulated during the care proceedings. Of note is that during this stage in the proceedings she could have asked and been entitled to support, but she was too afraid to do this. I think this is very telling in her comments,
“I think there should be a lot more work done to actually enable the person to understand the decisions that they’re making. I mean I did understand them and I did sort of sign up for them and everything but I still think that it’s a way of basically getting the best care at the lowest price and with the least input because once you go for the SGO which was what I said I wanted right for the word go but in doing so it meant I wasn’t getting any support from anywhere.”(38)
Forgotten Future and Acceptance
It is not hard to see why a person in Sally’s situation would find it difficult to give thought to anything other that the immediate needs of daily living. Providing full time care, as a single parent for two young children can be exhausting on my levels, but this must be even more so when you are in your mid 60s and caring for children who have experience a significant amount of loss and trauma in their young lives..
However, with some encouragement, Sally did eventually feel able to give some time to begin to talk about her hopes, dreams and ambitions. She was also able to articulate how she managed to reconcile with herself the reality that it is unlikely that she will fully realise her ambitions, hopes and dreams. She the describe the impact that this is having on her, and how she deals with this.
Sally was actually able to say it had been a difficult decision to give up on her future plans. She acknowledge that she had waited a long time to have the freedom to do the things that she wanted to do in her life,
‘It was difficult, because this was meant to be me time and I think we all deserve that at some time in our lives.’ (22)
There had clearly been times when Sally had considered the impact of becoming a full time carer for the children. One of her statements reflected the thoughts that she had had with regards to putting things on hold when you are younger in the knowledge that there will be time to do these things later on in life.
‘You know, you can make sacrifices in one area because you think well I’m, you know, there will be a conversation later on or this won’t last forever or when this is over I will be free.’ (24)
For me, it is clear in this statement, that Sally struggles to give attention to her needs without feeling a sense of guilt or disloyalty to the children. The sentence appears broken and it seems as if some words are actually missing.
Sally went on to lamented that,
this was meant to be our freetime, time for us, it’s taken a very precious time
of life away from everybody.(24)
It was clearly painful for Sally the realisation that she may not get the chance to do all the things that she had planned to do in her retirement. However, even in her statements she, appeared, only able to talk about these thoughts by locating them with others,
I think for a lot of grandparents it’s taken away, what may have been your only chance of freedom of being who you want to be and doing what you want to do. So all the things that you have sort of held out as you do with retirement, when I retire I am going to do this, that and the other all of that goes and that brings mixed feelings because you can’t say it doesn’t matter or you didn’t want to do it or it’s not in some ways an imposition or you don’t feel bad about that but by the same token it’s very much the feeling; well I didn’t really have any choice because the alternative would have been horrendous.(24)
In some respects one can hear the feeling of futility in statements such as these, ‘I didn’t really have any choice’. Who knows what this is born out of – could it be a sense of duty, a desire to do what is right, feelings of guilt, shame and responsibility or maybe it could be part of a the life script decision. Possibly, it is a combination of all of these things that influenced Sally to give up on her dreams, future plans and life-long ambitions.
Sally jokingly said – that she tells herself that 60 is the new 40 and that as the girls are keeping her young she is going to need to live till she is a 120. But then Sally became more realistic and talked about how she had considered her own health and her ability to do the things that she wanted to do.
‘I thought to myself when I retire it will be fantastic, because I will have all the time in the world, then you realise you would need 10 times that amount of time because you’ve slowed down. Your not as physically fit, your eyesight has gone….. you think well yeah I’ve got all the time in the world but it’s going to take what I could do in an hour it now takes me 5 hours to do, but yeah I still hope to be able to do it, but yeah I also accept that I might not get that chance and there’s also a joy with it as well because I absolutely adore the girls.’ (30)
It was this last statement, particularly, ‘I accept that I might not get the chance’ that brought about the title of this study – Forgotten Future,
I felt that Sally is totally realistic about the reality of her situation, that she is, possibly, never going to fulfill her dreams – so she has resigned that the best thing to do is simply forget about them. There were times when she joked about living until she was a 120, maybe to hide the pain and enormity of the decision she has made on the her future. But equally, maybe, Sally has simply created a new future, one in which she is much more comfortable in, where she is caring – a future in which she has certainty, because caring for others in familiar to her, were travelling to Italy, France and Canada would be totally new experiences. This is not in away to take away from Sally that she a very committed, passionate and determined Grandmother and the future of her ‘girls’ will not be forgotten.
What also is very clear is that Sally’s strength of character and determination shown itself again in her ability to develop new friendship groups, she has found ways to bring more adult contact back into her life, rekindle, hobbies and start new ones. She, thought the children, has started enjoying socialising and has actually frequenting places she did pre becoming a Kinship Carer. Her drive to help and support others has once again shown up in her recent actions where she has been instrumental in starting a ‘informal network’ of Kinship Carers who support each other outside of the groups set up by Liverpool Kinship Carers.
The aim of this piece of phenomenological research was to gain an insight into the impact of becoming a Kinship Carer on the life plan of the Carer. It was evident through this process that my co-research so was driven by her desire to meet the needs of her Grandchildren by providing them with a long term secure home until they reached adulthood. What was also equally evident was that her own wants, needs and desire were something that she found difficult to give any priority to without a fair amount of encouragement.
Throughout the interview with my co-researcher Sally, a continual pattern emerged where whenever I tried to talk about Sally herself or her plans, needs and desires, would bring the conversation back to the needs of the children, the needs of others or the failings of the State to provide sufficient resources to Kinship Families. In many respects, there appeared to be a level of confusion when I attempted to steer the discussion back to the needs of Sally and away from the children or the needs of others. One could argue, that this could be, primarily due to the fact that for the past 2.5 years, whenever there have been any discussion around the Kinship Carer Placement, the focus has always been on the needs of the children. Thus when someone is taking a different approach and enquiring about Sally’s individual, and her identity outside of being a Kinship Carer, could have evoked an internal conflict or raised suspicion about the questioning.
Maybe, it could be, that by giving time to think and talk about a future that was no longer possible, could in someway feel like, a selfish indulgence. Although one has to also acknowledge that, for many carers there are feelings of guilt and shame associated with being a Kinship Carer, particularly when it is their own child that has not been able to care for or keep their children safe.
In the case of my co-researcher, she was intermittently able to articulate how she had felt under enormous pressure to present herself as not have any needs, wants or desires. She was in a ‘battle’ to save her Grandchildren from the Care System and ultimately Adoption. She firmly believed that the latter would have long term detrimental effects on the children. Then to have someone wanting to explore issues that have been hidden or ignore must have been difficult to assimilate.
It was a privilege to be able to witness Sally talked, with so much excitement and animation, about her plans to travel to Italy to help her friends set up their organic herb garden. How, when she spoke about this being her time, and that she was able to feel that her dreams were really going to come true.
Sally had been a carer all of her life; as a child she cared for her mother, then cared for and nursed both her parents until they died, she afford the same care to her husband from whom she was estranged, before she entered into a profession where she was a carer. Then she had reach a stage in her life at the age of 63/64 where she thought all her caring had been finished and she was going to follow her dreams and travel with a purpose as opposed to simply going on a holiday.
Then she was faced with a really harsh reality, that if she was to fulfill her dreams there would be massive consequence for her two very young Grandchildren. Initially Sally did think that the situation within the children’s family home, was temporary and rectifiable once parents had received the correct level of support they would be able to resume the care of their children safely. However, the reality was to be very different, and in may respects Sally presented herself with a chose – Do I follow my lifelong dream, but the cost of this would be that the children would be placed for Adopted outside of the family, or I forgot my lifelong dreams and present myself as a viable alternative to Adoption.
Sally chose the latter and thus any thought, discussion or longing for a lost future could not become part of the narrative with the Local Authority or the Courts for fear of being judged as not suitable as a viable alternative. Hence, the longed wished for and imagined future becomes forgotten, hidden stored away. I can therefore totally understand why Sally, may have, found it difficult to talk about the plans that she had had for her future. I admire her skill, humour and creativity and how she has skillfully managed to hide her hurt by discounting any acknowledgement of her loss with comments such as ‘60 is the new 40,’ and ‘I am going to live till I am a 120 so I can do the things that I want to do.’
I have found it difficult to draw comparisons to other studies or research due to the fact that there has been very little enquiry made in to the emotional and psychological impact of becoming a Kinship Carer on the hopes dreams and aspirations of the Carer. However, what has been telling is that Sally’s experience of the process has mirrored the experience of other in the studies undertaken by Grandparent Plus and the Kinship Care Alliance. Where is was reported that many carers feel that they had be cohorst into taking on the care of the children with being informed of their rights to practical, emotional and financial support from the Local Authority.
It is not difficult to understand, that if the State can keep a child safe without the high cost of Court oversight or Local Authority Care, there is a strong incentive to do so. Equally, all the evidence shows that children who are raised in Kinship Placements compared to Local Authority Care have better outcomes.
In 2008, Elaine Farmer and Sue Moyers undertook a comparison study of two groups of children that had experienced similar problems before their placements with Local Authority Foster Carers and Kinship Carer.
The children in the Kinship Placement were doing as well or better than the children in Foster Care. This was despite the fact that the Kinship Carer household had more difficulties such as poverty, overcrowding and ill health. It would seem fair to speculate that with better support, the children in the Kinship Placements could be doing even better. Equally, for Carers such as Sally, this increased support may afford them the opportunity to access emotional and psychological support to address any of the issues that they may be dealing with . Thus helping them to be in a better place to deal with one of the most important roles in the world, that of raising the next generation to be fit and healthy both physically and emotionally.
On reflection, it is very apparent that very little has changed over the last 25 years since I became a Kinship Carer. It is still the case that Kinship Carers do not come into the parenting role unless there has been a significant disruption in the family. In the case of the death of the parents, Kinship Careers may have to deal with own grief. In cases of drug addition, prison, mental illness and many other situations, the there can also be overpowering grief. When this is coupled with caring for children who may be emotionally wounded, it is not surprising that it is difficult to talk about a Forgotten Future, which they may also feel has to be hidden.
Throughout the transcript and the time I spent with Sally she clearly demonstrated devotion, love and long term commitment to the ‘girls’. Sally was quick to remind me, that despite this lack of support, the physical and emotional strain, and her lost dreams, she she was determined to look after her Grandchildren.
In conclusion I would like the last words to go to my co-researcher Sally,
‘I wouldn’t change things for the world now. I actually told the social workers who brought them that they would never, ever get them across the doorstep again.’ (31)
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Appendix 1: Project Proposal Form
Appendix 2: Co-researchers Consent Form
Appendix 3: Transcript of Interview.
|“The lived experience of a Kinship Carers; What is the impact on a person who is raising child/children, that is not their birth child, because their parents are unable to do so.”
The reason I have chosen this as my research topic has come from my personal experience of being a Kinship Carer. I am also a Trustee for Kinship Carers in Liverpool, and it is my view that Kinship Carers are a group of people about which very little is known about their lived experiences.
The focus of this research is to consider the impact of being a Kinship Carer on a Carers; life style, relationships and future plan.
Kinship Care is a hidden epidemic in our society – and little has been written about it. However, what has been written tends to come from the perspective of the legal status of the child, the ‘fight’ for recognition and the support needs of the children; many of whom on their journey into the kinship care had experience; abuse, neglect, loss, separation abandonment.
However, there is even less written about the impact on the Carer; their loss of independence and the loss of a future that they may have planned.
|Qualitative phenomenological research on a semi structured interview of 1 hour with a co-researcher.|
|How will you prepare your participant and minimise any risk of harm to your participants|
Through Kinship Carers Liverpool’s Project Manager – I have sent out a letter* asking for volunteers to be part of my research project. I purposefully chose a recently established Kinship Carers Group as I wanted to minimise the possibility that I would know any potential co-researchers.
In the letter, I informed any potential co-research of why I had chosen this as my area of research and that I was a Trustee of the Kinship Carers Liverpool project. I felt it was important that before a person made a decision to be part of this research they were clear about my background, motivation and the possibly that they are likely to see me in the Kinship Carers community.
The co-researcher will have control over how they want to be identified – they will be aware that the research will belong to the Manchester Institute of Psychotherapy but if this research was to be published or part of it published, this would only be done with their full consent.
My overarching question has been shared with potential co-researchers – I will share my focused questions at the start of the interview – but I accept that the co-research my not wish or feel it appropriate to discuss the areas I wish to explore. I feel that this is a risk that I have to take in order that the co-research is respected and provided with control over what they wish to share discuss with me.
At the end of the Interview I will provide the co-researcher with a de-brief and will offer them an additional 1 hour session if the interview or post interview period , something is brought up for the co-researcher.
Dear Kinship Carer
Pauline Thornley has kindly agreed to send this email/letter on my behalf to Kinship Carers who are known to Liverpool Kinship Carers.
My name is Lesley Stopforth, I am in my 3rd year of a psychotherapy course at Manchester Institute of psychotherapy. As part of my course I will be undertaking a research study. For my research study I have chosen to explore an aspect of Kinship Care.
The reason for my interest came from being a kinship carer, I am also a Trustee for Kinship Carers in Liverpool, and it is my view that Kinship Carers are a group of people about which very little is known about their lived experiences.
I am writing to ask if you would kindly consider taking part in the research project. The title of the research project is;
The lived experience of a Kinship Carers; What is the impact on a person who is raising child/children, that is not their birth child, because their parents are unable to do so.
If you agreed to take part in the research;
I guarantee to comply with the UK Council for Psychotherapy Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct. I will compile with 2010 Data Protection Legislation.
I thank you for taking the time to read this letter and would really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you further about the research project and answer any questions that you may want answering before you are able to agree to take part.
My email address is Lesleystopforth@hotmail.com
My telephone number is 0791 4415026.
Look forward to hearing from and please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions and or concerns that you may have.
|I have read ‘ The Manchester Institute Guidelines for Research in Psychotherapy’ and I agree to abide by them.|
|L. Stopforth (signed)|
Manchester Institute For Psychotherapy
454 Barlow Moor Road Chorlton, Manchester M21 OBQ
0161 862 9456 WWW.cmpt.co.uk
Co-researcher Consent Form:
- I agree to be part of this phenomenological Research study with Lesley Stopforth.
- I understand that this is part of Transaction Analysis Psychotherapy Course.
- I will be referred to as the co-researcher.
- I have been given the overarching question of the research.
- I have been given a copy of the Manchester Institute Research Ethics.
- I agree to being interviewed and that the interview will be recorded and password protected.
- I am aware that a transcript of the interview will be submitted as part of the research.
- I am aware that the transcript of the interview will be read by the Research Supervisor Karen Burke and possible another person for purpose of second marking.
- I understand that recording of the interview will be deleted and no copies will be made.
- I know that I can use another name to conceal my identity, but have given prior consent to being known in this research study by my first name Sally.
- I know that I can withdraw consent at any point to the submission date 1 April 2018.
- I have been offered a further session with the researcher if the interview brings up any issues for me.
- I will be given a copy of the research study.
- I have been informed that if I have any complaints about the researcher I can contact the research supervisor at Mip.
- I am happy to proceed with the interview.
Co-researcher Name……………………Signature …………………….Date………….
Researcher Name……….………………Signature …………………….Date………….
|Transcript Interview between:|
1.Interviewer: So, we will start the interview- and I am going to start by saying thank you very much for agreeing to meet with me again.
2.Interviewee: You’re very welcome.
3 Interviewer: This is our second meeting. First time we the technology let us down or let me down. So thank you for meeting with me. You’ve signed my consent form and you’re still happy with that and you’ve got a copy of that.
4 Interviewee: I’m still happy with that, that’s fine.
5 Interviewer: And just to confirm this interview is part of my studies. I am doing the diploma in Psychotherapy which is TA, Transactional Analysis and in the 4th year part of my course is that I have to do a piece of research. I had asked if you’d be involved in this because of my interest in kinship carers. I know that there’s quite a bit been written about the children and about the, the battles that people have to go through to become a kinship carer. But the emotionally impact on carers and the changes they have to make to their life plans, as this is very little talked. The the questions that I had set are On any future plans that you may have had to put on hold.
So, I was just wondering if you were willing to talk to me a little bit about what led to you becoming a kinship carer?
6 Interviewee: I am caring for 2 children. They are my son’s children, so my grandchildren. It came out of the blue. Initially, I agreed to go down and become part of a family therapy group around them to see if we could support them to manage. It became very apparent that wasn’t going to work. There were problems with them, with both parents together as parents and separately, neither could parent independently and they couldn’t parent together. So it was then decided that the Local Authorities would step in and the girls were taken and put into a foster care, short term foster care.
I’d already spoken to somebody and taken some advice on this and said that I would take the girls. First of all, I offered to take them in the short term to give the mother time to get herself together to possibly work from home with children as well and that was refused. I then asked if they would all come and stay with me for a while. I would take over most of the responsibility for the girls and again the mum refused to do that. She didn’t want to do that either because I thought if we could build her up and then she would be able to parent independently or with some support maybe. So, then it was a choice of the children either going, staying in the care system, which is a big worry now because basically after 26 weeks they would have been placed for adoption.
7 Interviewer: What was going on for you in your own life when you were presented with the possibility that the children were going to go in to care?
8 Interviewee: I had just, as I thought completed – I had been caring for people my whole life. Right from being a child I cared for my grandparents and then I cared for my sister’s children for a short period. I cared for my mum who is disabled. I cared for my late partner because he was terminally ill. I cared for his children who he had before to his previous marriage. So my whole life has just been about other people and of course I cared for my own 2 children and then I was drawn into working with people with learning disabilities which I absolutely love but it’s really, you know, quite draining. It’s not like you get up and you go to work and you come home. You know there’s quite a lot to it.
So I was able to retire because of when I was born. I was able to retire at 60. I decided to carry on until I was 63/64. I reduced my hours a bit because what I was trying to do is to make sure each of the people I worked with were securely in a place where they could move forward without me. So got all that set up and then my plan was to either sell or rent my house and to travel because I absolutely have been passionate about travelling since I was a child but I don’t just like to do it as holidays. I like to actually go with and live with communities and I am passionate about sustainable living. So a friend had to have some work done. She had just taken a place in Italy. It had to have some work done which meant knocking down an old outhouse and building it up so they built that into a small annexe and they asked me if I would go over and help them set up their vegetable and herb/kitchen garden.
9 Interviewer: In Italy?
10 Interviewee: yes Italy.
11 Interviewer: Wow.
12 Interviewee: Live with them. They said they couldn’t pay me anything which I didn’t need because I had my pension but that I could live there rent free and they would feed me and stuff, you know sort of feed me and house me if in return I would help them to get their kitchen/garden up and running. They already had grapes and olives but that’s done as a community development. So they didn’t need any expertise with that but they had never done anything like this before. So I said yes I would love to and then I spoke to a few other people and decided that as I had finished in one place I could move on somewhere else. So I would have been travelling around mostly Italy and France and possibly the opportunity to go over to Canada as well.
13 Interviewer: Wow.
14 Interviewee: So, it was like the answer to my prayers because I thought to myself well I don’t have a great deal of money I have just got a basic state pension and even that’s topped up with pension credits but I thought well I wouldn’t actually need it because I wouldn’t have to worry about bills and things. I would be able to save to pay for the travel and it was really exciting. So I said when do you want me and they said now as soon as possible. So I checked my passport which had just expired. So I went down paid the extra because I didn’t want to even wait a short period and then I got the information about the girls through.
15 Interviewer: Oh Sal.
16 Interviewee: So that went on hold.
17 Interviewer: So how did that, did someone contact you and just …
18 Interviewee: Yeah the authorities in Hastings contacted me and so I thought well I can’t just go and do this because if I’m over there and they need me. You know I can’t get back as quickly and I can’t, you know, I can’t do anything and I really do need the input now. Then I went down and saw how bad things were and at the time the authorities were focussing on the relationship that had developed between the parents but not focussing on the fact that the absence of my son, the father had left a big impact because he’d been the primary carer for the girls and the mother was not able to properly care for them. She loved them. She still loves them but she couldn’t put the children first. She couldn’t look to their safety. She’d been fostered and then adopted herself as a child. She’d had a lot of instability. She’d been to something like 14 different schools
19 Interviewer: Wow.
20 Interviewee: So educationally she had no qualifications or anything and she just wasn’t able to get her head around the fact that you do really have to make a lot of sacrifices for children and she’d had the problem with her other children, previous children. So she’s had 4 children in all and not been able to parent any of them.
21 Interviewer: I hear when you talk about your life earlier on about the sacrifices you’ve made, you know, caring for your parents., your grandparents, your children, your ex-husband’s children and you nursed your ex-husband until he passed away.
22 Interviewee: It was very, very difficult decision on one level. It was difficult because this was meant to be me time and I think we all deserve that at some time in our lives.
23 Interviewer: Yeah, absolutely.
24 Interviewee: You know you can make sacrifices in one area because you think well I’m, you know, there will be a conversation later on or this won’t last forever or when this is over I will be free. For a lot of us this was meant to be our freedom time. This was meant to be a time for us. For the younger ones which we have because a lot of people are caring for their siblings, for their, you know some child in the family before they’ve even perhaps had a chance to form a relationship themselves or to even consider whether they want children or not. So it’s taken a very precious time of life away from everybody.
I think for a lot of grandparents it’s taken away, what may have been your only chance of freedom of being who you want to be and doing what you want to do. So all the things that you have sort of held out as you do with retirement, when I retire I am going to do this, that and the other all of that goes and that brings mixed feelings because you can’t say it doesn’t matter or you didn’t want to do it or it’s not in some ways an imposition or you don’t feel bad about that but by the same token it’s very much the feeling well I didn’t really have any choice because the alternative would have been horrendous.
25 Interviewer: A massive responsibility.
26 Interviewee: And it also brings a lot, it brings a lot of pleasure. It brings a lot of joy. It makes you feel really good about some things. When I think when you think you are doing a really terrible job and somebody comes along and says you are doing brilliantly, you are doing great. You know those little things which you get and some people do reach out and say those things, you know and that’s always quite good because it’s not just an ego thing. You actually need to know that what you are doing is worthwhile, it does make a difference.
It can throw you into a lot of problems with your family as well because although in my opinion it’s the best thing for the children, they don’t lose everything like if they are adopted they lose their identity, they lose their name, they may lose each other if there are siblings involved. They lose the extended family. They lose their history. They lose an awful lot and even in the most stable relationships with people I think there’s always that little thing that, I do a lot of genealogy and I know from a lot of the people who are doing that an awful lot of them are people who have been through similar and it’s not that they didn’t have a wonderful life or a better life. They accept that they had a better life than they would have had. It’s the fact that they don’t know. It’s a great unknown out there and that can cause a lot of problems.
27 Interviewer: I hear you say its a is a big responsibility, but that although you did not plan for this, and you had different plans for your retirement I wonder how you resolve that with yourself?
28 Interviewee: I just keep telling myself that 60 is the new 40.
29 Interviewer: Well done.
30 Interviewee: And that means I’m going to live 120 because I have to live that long to do all the things that I didn’t get to do. So yeah I still hope to do it but it would have been nice to do it now because I also know that as time goes by a lot of the things that I could do I am no longer able to do. I’ve always been passionate about DIY and doing various things, you know, in the home. I am very into doing a lot of environmental changes. Making a house more eco-friendly and everything.
So all these fantastic plans and I thought to myself when I retire it will be fantastic because I will have all the time in the world to do all these things and then you come to do them and you realise you would need 10 times that amount of time because you’ve slowed down. Your not as physically fit, your eyesight has gone. You don’t work as fast. You know you are not as productive. So lots and lots of changes and you think well yeah I’ve got all the time in the world but it’s going to take what I could do in an hour it now takes me 5 hours to do but yeah I still hope to be able to do it but yeah I also accept that I might not get that chance and there’s also a joy with it as well because I absolutely adore the girls.
I wouldn’t change things for the world now. I actually told the social workers who brought them that they would never, ever get them across the doorstep again. I said you literally have to bring, you could bring the army and you could bring anybody in I said I’d have the whole area surrounded. I said these girls are never, never, ever going to leave here unless it’s the right thing for them.
31 Interviewer: And what security are you giving them Sally ! When you talked of them when we were walking here your face lights up.
32 Interviewee: Yeah.
33 Interviewer: And I hear they give you lots, I can see they give you lots of pleasure.
34 Interviewee: They’ve done me a lot of good. I probably will live to 120 because they’re keeping me a lot healthier. I lost loads and loads of weight. The weight just fell off me because I was, just on the go the whole time. It was sort of run to the school for one, run back again. Run back down with the other because they went in at different times. Pick this one up, drop that off, take this to the after school, pick the other one out of this, they do lots and lots of activities. So yeah on the go the whole time and that’s just from, that wasn’t a conscious decision it was just from being on the go all the time.
36 Interviewer: As you know I became a kinship carer for a 3 year old but when my youngest child had just started senior school. So I wouldn’t have had it any different but I did feel a little resent that I couldn’t go and do what I wanted to do. I was going to go full time in work and all of that had to get put on hold.
37 Interviewee: Yeah.
38 Interviewee: And it was things like working on your emotions, you know, I was saying things like well I can take them. I can manage. It won’t cost much to feed a couple of extra. I grow all my mine own stuff anyway but now I don’t because they trample most of it and wreck it all and saying well I don’t have to worry about I’ve got a home there. There’s room for them. You know it won’t take much to accommodate 2 children but it does and it did and it does and it gets worse by the minute. I mean they’re 6 and 7 now coming up, one’s coming up for 8. They eat bigger meals than I do and they’re always hungry in between. You know you sort of put a packet of biscuits down and it’s gone and they’re pretty healthy eaters. You know they are not sort of, you know, they don’t loads and loads of junk food or anything like that but they’re, you know, even for that they are continually hungry. You know they just seem to be eating and growing and eating and growing and I was just saying well no it will be alright. I will be able to manage. I will be able to manage.
I think there should be a lot more support in place. I think there should be a lot more work done to actually enable the person to understand the decisions that they’re making. I mean I did understand them and I did sort of sign up for them and everything but I still think that it’s a way of basically getting the best care at the lowest price and with the least input because once you go for the SGO which was what I said I wanted right for the word go but in doing so it meant I wasn’t getting any support from anywhere. I was under the same sort of observations and everything. At a very critical, at the worst time because everything is new for you. Everything is new for the children. They were literally taken from one end of the country to another. They’d already gone through all the thing of being in foster care. So they’d made, already made one change and then had another change.
It was a very, very difficult period and it had been 33 years since I’d had a child that young. I mean I’d babysat for step daughter’s children. That was for short periods. It wasn’t you’re taking on the whole responsibility for them. Everything had changed. The schools had changed. Their methods had changed. What you could and couldn’t do had all changed. Daft things like swimming. I couldn’t get them in the swimming club because all the swimming clubs I knew had closed down.
I couldn’t get anybody else to take them. I couldn’t take them myself. You can’t take 2 children in the pool until they’re over a certain age whether they can swim or not. So I was thinking well what do I do. Yeah lots and lots of things. I think it’s very important that they ensure the person taking it on knows exactly what they are taking on and I do think given the outcomes which are normally better because all of the negative aspects of adoption or being in care or being in foster care are removed by kinship care. A lot of the children are already damaged. Some very much so and sometimes that damage isn’t apparent and granted this happens with children who are adopted or fostered but they have the support of social services.
39 Interviewer: Do you feel unsupported?
40 Interviewee: Yes, yes. I felt, initially, there was if anything over support for the, they weren’t really supporting the girls they were just tying up all my time by coming up and sort of checking this and checking that and checking the other and I’m not saying there shouldn’t be those checks and measures of course there should but …
41 Interviewer: Did they talk to you about how it was for you rather than check for the girls.
42 Interviewee: Yeah.
43 Interviewee: So they were kind of, no there was very little done on that and a lot of the checks I expected them to make they weren’t making because I was expecting them to want to check the house and doing all sort and of course being in support work, I mostly worked in outreach but then I went into some supported living and I was expecting them to come in and want to sort of, you know, peep in the fridge and open the cupboard doors and sort of look around. They didn’t do any health & safety checks on the property at all.
44 Interviewer: Did they ask, I mean I know it’s really difficult when you’re wanting a child or the children because you know what’s best for them but you’re putting your best foot forward and you present yourself in such a way.
45 Interviewee: Yeah, you’re trying to sell yourself all the time as being good enough.
46 Interviewer: And I wonder what happens to you in that, I wonder what about your plans for the future, your ambitions, your ideas of what life would be like .
47 Interviewee: Your plans and ambitions go on hold. They just go on hold and what you don’t do is to make any demands for yourself.
48 Interviewer: Yes.
48 Interviewee: Or even for the children, to a lesser degree but you might make some demands for the children. You might say something like I actually think they need blah but I don’t think you even do that because you are just terrified that you are not going to be able to have them, anything is better than that. So really there does need to be a lot more. There needs to be the emotional support. There needs to be financial support because their needs are greater. You know I didn’t sit down as I did for my own children and plan for 9 months that I was going to have a baby and start, you know, putting things on one side and you know doing a little saving thing and everything like that. All of sudden I just had these children and when the SGO went through absolutely everything was pulled it’s just a question of you know …
49 Interviewer: Get on with it.
50 Interviewee: I had to get on with it.
51 Interviewer: And do you feel financially you have been impacted I mean for some people it could force them into poverty for them.
52 Interviewee: I mean I didn’t have, it’s taken me until now just to get the child benefit.
53 Interviewer: I think you’ve got the …
54 Interviewee: So I’ve just got child benefit and I’ve just had a letter from the educational department saying that they will get some help. The school have done great out of it because they’ve got all the pupil premiums. None of that is going towards the girls. So all the things that the girls needed more of have got to be financed. So and things like, as I say, my youngest was 33, I was never at home before. The house was sitting there empty half the time. You know we’d only check in once in a blue moon. My daughter used it as a kind of teenage squat type of thing and used it while she was at uni and if she ever needed to come home but it was just sitting there basically not being used as a home. I had got rid of all the things that would have helped with children. I didn’t have any single beds.
55 Interviewer: Wow.
56 Interviewee: I had the 3 bedrooms but one was my daughter’s room with all of her stuff in which included the double bed and my room which had a double bed in. So even things like you know having beds for them or anything.
57 Interviewer: So you had to start all over again?
58 Interviewee: Everything had to start from scratch and I didn’t want to do anything until I actually knew that they coming because otherwise I would have been sitting there looking at a room or rooms that I had sort of prepped and got all ready for them and it would have been like a bereavement, like a loss of a child. So I thought I don’t want to do that and so yeah there was very little at the time when we could have probably asked and received there was nothing and then as soon as the SGO went through that was it you were just left high and dry.
And before that the other thing was I had a 3 year old and a 5 year old and I was having to travel with them for contact all the time. So it needed contact with sibling contact, contact with the mum, the contact with the dad was taken far off to an extent because he immediately moved. He wouldn’t move too close but he moved to Sefton. He said he would either move to Sefton or over to the Wirral because he wouldn’t have had that much distance between the children but for the mum it meant us having to continually travel to East London.
59 Interviewer: So you and the girls had to go travel down there?
60 Interviewee: Yes, yes.
61 Interviewer: And were you helped financially with that? Apart from the physical travelling with a 3 and a 5 year old.
62 Interviewee: we could get a travel ticket, which we did but you couldn’t do it with children that young. It couldn’t be done as a day trip. You couldn’t just go down to London. You couldn’t get to Hastings at all. Getting to London, if you got to London you couldn’t have turned around and travelled back with them because it would have been too much for them. One got travel sick anyway. So just the one journey was quite a nightmare. If they’d both fallen asleep how the heck could I have got them off the train and got them home and everything. So yeah there was all that to contend with.
63 Interviewer: Did that have an impact on your physical health Sal?
64 Interviewee: Yes, it was horrendous.
65 Interviewer: When you’re talking about it then I am imagining how would you do it with 2 little ones. Even when you’re in your 20’s let alone when you’re in your 60’s.
66 Interviewee: So, we did have places we could stay but that meant sort of actually as you do in families, you know, making the best of sort of squeezing into somebody else’s place because people don’t suddenly and there being an adult and 2 such young children that was restrictive. So yeah there were a lot of things going on and the dynamics between the family because people were thinking well we don’t want to be seen as taking sides or getting involved in this or probably for a lot of people we don’t want to be asked to help out so we will just kind of step back and there could be lots of reasons. So yeah the whole dynamics depending on the situation of course.
Normally there is something in the, you know, in the it doesn’t happen for no reason, either the parents have died or they are ill or they are not able to parent or they’ve got addictions or they’ve got mental health issues or there is always something there. So you’ve got all that to contend with as well. So quite often you’re not just, it’s not just changing your life you’re also isolating yourself in a lot of ways because you’re isolated from, the extended family but you also be isolated from your own friends and your own lifestyle and hobbies. Because your peers are doing different things. They are not sort of you know, having to think about children that age or if they do because it whenever I speak about grandkids people are sort of oh I know it’s terrible isn’t it? Aren’t you glad when they go back. The good thing is you can always and I say well no I can’t.
67 Interviewer: Has that impacted on your friendship group who you see now or …
68 Interviewee: Yes, yes. I’m only just starting to, plus I didn’t have time to do things. I was too busy to do things. I had to keep dashing back to do stuff around them. So it’s only just now started to I did a short course which was with, very good actually, because one child was showing a lot of behavioural concerns and I thought at first I was seeing elements of Asperger’s. So I spoke to the school and they said oh no she’s fine. You know she’s playing with other children but I said but she’s, a she as you just said and this is why Asperger’s in women is missed because they interact differently. So it’s not picked up as early and quite often goes completely undiagnosed I said but I said there are social and gender issues that make it harder to spot in girls. So I said you can’t take that as a thing I said because I said they tend to copy the other children and the other children tend to come in with structures that enable them to miss being diagnosed. So looked at it a bit further. I think there still could be a slight element of that there but I think an awful lot of it was post-traumatic stress and attachment and working on that has been a lot of good.
69 Interviewer: So did you do a, say you had a chance to do a course on it?
70 Interviewee: I did a course at the Sure Start Centre and that was good and a little cookery course there. Actually I had walked in by mistake and when we came out they’d opened the door and you could smell all the food that had been cooking and everything and we just went in and chatted and had a taste of some of the food and then I ended up doing the cookery course.
71 Interviewer: Well done.
72 Interviewee: And that was great because I made friends with the girl who does it and started to do a little bit of work with her around, you know, she does a lot of demonstrating a lot of community cooking. So I was providing the things to do that with.
73 Interviewer: Can I just say you do quite amaze me the things you do, you know.
74 Interviewee: And went down with the girls and we did a big thing at Blackburne House.
75 Interviewer: Wow.
76 Interviewee: Which was nice because that was the closest I had come to any sort of socialising and see people who I knew were going to places that I would normally go to. So that was quite good. Tried doing a bit of online, a few online courses which I will still dip in and out of but to be honest by the time I get my free time in the night I just sit down and fall asleep.
77 Interviewer: I am not surprised.
78 Interviewee: I just sit down and I literally as soon as I, you know I will sit down and put something on TV or just start doing something on a tablet and I just go out like a whizz.
79 Interviewer: And they are 7 and 8 now.
80 Interviewer: I know, even when you spoke to me before and you said about the swimming lessons, they’re doing drama, you’re going the pantomime, picking them back and forth from school but and in that you’ve just come in here and asked in the coffee shop what they are doing with their coffee beans because you had arranged collection of their waste.
81 Interviewee: Incredible Edible
82 Interviewer: Hat’s off to you.
83 Interviewee: But they’ve changed a lot. They’ve really sort of grown up just in size and everything but their social life has expanded. Their interests, they are much more assertive than they used to be, which is good. There’s a lot less meltdowns and I just think they are going to be absolutely amazing.
84 Interviewer: With a nana like you and have you I am not surprised. I also hear that know that you’ve been involved trying to set up a kinship carers group as well in this area.
85 Interviewee: Yes.
86 Interviewer: As well as all the other stuff you do.
87 Interviewee: Yes and still want to do that. I think I need to do a test to find out whether it would be better in this area or doing it somewhere like Speke and I say that because this area can be very, it can be quite difficult sometimes to get people to engage in lots and lots of things and I don’t know what it is about that but I know it’s always been the case. It’s PTAs have difficulty. Most of the groups that do set up have difficulties and everybody seems to be a little more insular and a little less concerned about doing anything like that, you know, it’s just not been a, it’s never, it’s always been very, very hard to get things to really gel well here but I know Viv at Garston and the Speke area seem to have done an awful lot better.
88 Interviewer: Seem to have. Do you get chance to go to the Ellergreen one and get your pamper days? Interviewee: I would have loved to have gone this Friday and I just couldn’t. it was the last one and I thought I really want to go when I am able. It’s difficult because I use public transport so getting there and back is quite often difficult for the girls. What I said was if it’s something that is on in the morning I can’t get there for 10. It would, I know because I worked over there and I know the difficulty of actually travelling at that particular time. So I said it will always be like 10.30 would be the earliest I could ever get there. I said so what I said was if it was something that was, if it was something that I just wanted to do and it wasn’t critical to anybody else I would just go in later. I would just get there for 10.30. If it’s something for around the girls, you know, if it’s beneficial for the girls then we just have to bite the bullet and pay for a cab if it something that Ellergreen want me to commit, want me to do, you know if its something like that then they will get me cab but I don’t like to do that unless I absolutely have to. If it’s something …
89 Interviewer: It would be ideal if there was something a bit more local for you wouldn’t it Sal?
90 Interviewee: That would be amazing. I think we need a few of them. I mean I had a woman contacting me online. She said did you ever get sorted with anything. She said because I am in Liverpool. I did and it’s been fantastic and I go to the one in Norris Green but I said we are also thinking of launching one here subject to enough interest. So she said well I wouldn’t be able to get to either of those. So I thought well not ever, not even to go occasionally or even just to register and say well I can’t actually get there at the moment. You know I thought maybe she’s got very young children or I don’t know but I do think it’s important, even if you can’t get there, to actually have something that is there that is actually able to look not at the individual issues that we all have but to look at the bigger picture.
91 Interviewee: Like a be a support network, to get advice when needed and sometimes just to have because a lot of the women are absolutely brilliant and would help others.. People could maybe meet them for a coffee somewhere or you know we could have ad-hoc meetings dotted around. You know where you don’t do it or you don’t have all the structure but a group of us go out and meet and say something like well how about if we all meet in Crosby because there are a couple of people out there who can’t get to Ellergreen but we could go out there and we could make that our contact group.
92 Interviewer: So you could arrange it yourself outside of the group.
93 Interviewee: Yeah.
94 Interviewer: Yeah, that sounds good.
95 Interviewee: Yeah and it could be quite a nice thing because everybody you speak to their experience will be unique to them but there will be some similarity.
96 Interviewer: Well maybe have a chat with Pauline to see if there’s any, you know, is there little satellites of people meeting and offering support to each other and I’m conscious of your time because I don’t want you to be late for these girls. Yeah, I mean there maybe something in that and I know they are looking at one in Huyton. They’re starting one in Huyton.
97 Interviewee: Are they?
98 Interviewer: Yes.
99 Interviewee: Oh well that will be great.
100 Interviewer: In the Rarh
Interviewee: In where?
Interviewer: I know it’s called the Rarch. It’s a community centre. So I will get that information to you.
Interviewee: That would be brilliant.
Interviewer: Ok I will do that. So I’m going to end this now and hopefully it’s all worked this time ! Thank you very much for giving me your time – on two occasions – it is very much appreciated –
Interviewee: I hope so.