Foster carers come from many different backgrounds and they will have made a choice to foster. There is, however, a group of carers that make a huge contribution to the welfare of vulnerable children and these are this country’s kinship carers. These are people who tend to be the immediate family of children – relatives like aunts, uncles and grandparents. Kinship foster carers might also be close family friends of parents no longer able to provide a home for their children. For those with no knowledge of fostering, it might be thought they do not play a hugely important part in fostering generally. That is until you realise that around 200,000 children in the UK are being brought up by kinship carers. And in many of these families, the foster carers face particular challenges. They are, for example, statistically likely to be older and that can mean being more susceptible to health problems which can sometimes be chronic.
Kinship carers often have to give up work in order to care for kinship children. This can put them at risk from certain factors: compared to the wider population, they are more likely to be poorer or at risk of social isolation – often both. This group providing foster care are all too easily overlooked. This looks like changing particularly because of the current pressures imposed by the coronavirus. Kinships carers can be generally more vulnerable so the government is now being urged to come forward and provide greater support to kinship carers to mitigate the risks of placement breakdowns.
The charity, Family Rights Group, has produced research demonstrating that the pandemic is indeed pushing families deeper into financial hardship. The research, commissioned by a cross-party Taskforce of MPs and Peers, reveals that kinship carers are especially vulnerable. A survey taking in the views of over 650 kinship carers in the country are in now in need of additional support. Those surveyed are responsible for providing foster care for over 1,000 children and young people.
A cross-party letter bearing the signatures of fifty-seven parliamentarians has been sent to the Prime Minister. In response to the survey, the chief executive of Family Rights Group, Cathy Ashley started: –
“Many of the responses to the kinship care survey were heartbreaking. Family and friends, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, brother and sister are doing their best by the kinship children, in extremely adverse circumstances. Many of the kinship carers have been plunged into poverty, having to give up work or reduce their hours in order to take on the children. But the crisis has caused even greater financial hardship as shopping and utility bills rise and in many cases, household income has fallen further. Some of the kinship carers describe being left abandoned with their worries, including fears of what should happen to the child if they fell ill.”
Twenty-eight per cent of kinship carers surveyed were found to have a long-term illness and fifty-four per cent of those they cared for had additional educational needs or disabilities. Currently around half of all kinship carers are self-isolating because either they or the child in their home have an underlying health condition. Half of the cares asked said they had received no support during the coronavirus pandemic. Thirty-seven per cent of kinship carers had been offered a school or childcare place but most surveyed had not followed up on the offer. Many cited concerns they had that if the child they cared for was sent to school, there was a real risk they might bring the virus home. The survey found that the kinship carers’ overriding concerns were to do with the impact of the lockdown on the child’s mental health, behaviour and development. Twenty-five per cent of kinship carers asked that steps should be put in place to assist them with shopping for food and getting medicines.
It is not that long ago that the foster care stocktake was recommending the importance of supporting placements. It rightly recognised that when placements breakdown, the long term effects – especially when it keeps happening to the same children – can severely damage their wellbeing and future prospects. Doing the utmost to support kinship carers through these extremely challenging times has to be a priority. And this is because these placements tend to be with close family members. They are likely to have a greater degree of stability. If they come to an end the effects on the children are likely to be traumatic as they will no longer be with people they already know and have a relationship with. The Taskforce is quite right to be calling for steps to be taken urgently to relieve pressures of these families and stop more children being forced into the wider care system.
Some of the requests made include the setting up of a local ‘Kinship Care Crisis Fund’. And that supermarkets prioritise deliveries for kinship foster carers and anyone fostering a disabled child. The government has also been asked to provide laptops or tablets to support home education. There are also financial measures that could provide relief such as the lifting of the bedroom tax and the benefit cap when a kinship household is forced to self- isolate.
Rainbow: recruiting foster carers through the crisis.
We take the health and safety of our children, foster families and staff very seriously. Following advice from the government, we closed our offices. However, Rainbow fostering remains very much open when it comes to the vital work of recruiting people to become foster carers. We are also continuing to work with our foster families and colleagues in the local authorities to meet the needs of vulnerable children. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, our online enquiry forms and phone lines remain open. you will receive the same great level of service you would expect from a fostering agency with over twenty years experience and which has been rated ‘Outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted.
You can call our dedicated team on 020 8427 3355. We also have a National Line 0330 311 2845 you can use. We will send you information explaining how easily we can manage your application online as well as ‘meet’ you using a Skype call. And, you can call us to discuss any aspect of this process which we promise is easy and straightforward.
Rainbow is recruiting in Hampshire, London, Birmingham & Manchester.
Remember this is #FosterCareFortnight please lend your interest and support in any way that you can!
Perhaps by following us on Twitter and Facebook as we strive to spread awareness of the great work foster carers do all around the country every day. To find out more visit – https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/get-involved/foster-care-fortnight For the latest information on coronavirus and how to stay alert, stay safe, save lives and protect the NHS you can visit – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus At Rainbow, we would always recommend that any applicant seriously considering foster care visits our FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page on our website to be found at – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/