How Kinship Carers Hub was Born- by Anna-Lou, Founder/Director
I am a qualified social worker with fifteen years experience of front-line social work. So far, in my career I have worked with a wide variety of service users, from children and families subject to child protection plans, to children in the care of the local authority, foster carers, adopters, adopted children and kinship carers. I have extensive experience of safeguarding, court work, care planning and completing direct work to bring about positive change with children and families.
Over the course of my career, I have increasingly come into contact with kinship families- not surprising, seeing that the number of Special Guardianship Orders has risen by 193% since 2010. I started noticing that in my work with them, time and again, the same issues kept coming up: kinship carers felt unsupported, even abandoned, by statutory services. Many of them were angry, and most of the kinship carers I came into contact with were completely despairing and feeling either that they were failing the children in their care, or that they had been tricked into stepping up to care for these children without having been given the adequate information or support. Family after family reported the same issues: poverty, difficulties with managing contact, unmet emotional needs of the children in their care deriving from trauma, and housing issues. At the same time, I was also able to witness the dedication and the stability that kinship carers were able to offer to these very vulnerable children in the face of adversity, often at great personal cost. Many kinship carers put the children in their care before their relationships, their careers and sometimes even their own children. I felt frustrated and outraged that more wasn’t being done to support kinship carers, and constrained in my ability to help within my statutory local authority role. They weren’t receiving the type of tailored, informed and compassionate support that they desperately needed. I decided that I wanted to set up a project to better support kinship carers in my local area, and that in order to do this effectively, I would need to step outside of my statutory role and think more “outside of the box”.
Sadly, it is still the case that many statutory services lack the specialist understanding needed to work with this particular group of carers and children. Although there are areas of crossover with fostering and adoption social work (we are talking, after all, of the same children), kinship care also presents with unique challenges, as well as strengths. Support services tend to focus on the quality of parenting the children are receiving, and rightly so; however often this happens at the cost of ignoring a stark fact, which is that vast numbers of kinship carers have to cope with often limited financial resources, especially when children arrive unexpectedly, and have the added stressors of dealing with fuel, food and housing poverty whilst caring for traumatized children. The widespread poverty among the kinship carers population is an inconvenient truth that is usually talked about, when it is mentioned at all, solely in terms of individual cases. This distracts from what is a systemic issue related to the political choices made around public funding over the last decade and a half.
So I decided to take a new approach to kinship care support by starting Kinship Carers Hub. With Kinship Carers Hub, my main objective is to provide a very practical form of support to kinship families in need. Aside from social work, my other great passion is cooking and healthy eating. I have been organizing dinners and food related social events for friends and family for many years. Even in my role as a statutory social worker, I often use cooking activities with the children and carers I work with as a method of engaging and communicating with my service users, always receiving very positive feedback. In 2015, I had a brief career break from social work due to personal reasons, and during this four-month period I worked as a cook for an after-school club, cooking for up to thirty-five children, five days a week. This was my first inkling that perhaps I could turn my passion into a job; however it was not until five years later, in January 2020, that circumstances aligned so that I could start Kinship Carers Hub which was kicked off with the first Kinship Carers Cooking Club.