Jane is one of Adfam’s Family Support Coordinators, working with kinship families affected by substance use in Peterborough. We interviewed her to find out how kinship families have been affected by COVID-19 and lockdown. This is part 2 of the interview, in which Jane discusses what can be done to better support kinship families at this time. To read part 1, please click here. To find out more about Jane’s project in Peterborough, please click here.
What can be done to better support kinship care families at the moment?
“There needs to be more awareness and recognition that kinship carers are facing a particular set of challenges. In terms of the advice that is available for kinship carers at the moment, a lot of it can feel quite contradictory. For example, the general government advice on COVID-19 states that grandparents in the over 70 age category shouldn’t come into contact with children, however these carers are in a situation where they are living with and taking care of children. There needs to be specific advice and support that is tailored for kinship families in the current situation.
Support services need to recognise that there is anxiety around health and wills, and carers need to feel able to have open conversations about that, to put contingency plans in place. This is usually an issue in the background for elderly kinship carers, but it has been brought to the forefront by COVID-19, so services need to be more aware and forthcoming.
Practically, better digital facilities and access to the internet for kinship families would help children to keep up with their schoolwork and also maintain social and supportive connections during lockdown. General financial support for kinship families who need it should be made easier to access and more available for families with all types of kinship care arrangements.
Furthermore, schools can offer more outreach and advice to carers, for example giving practical ideas about activities that they can do with children or how to help with their schoolwork. Lots of kinship carers lack confidence is asking for help, so schools should be proactive.”
Do you have any advice or tips for services working with kinship carers, or for kinship carers themselves?
“For services, think about how you approach kinship carers. Stigma is an issue, and can be a barrier to kinship carers asking for more help, particularly for grandparents or relatives where it has been their own adult child’s/relative’s actions that have led to the children being placed in kinship care arrangements. This can particularly be the case when the children have experienced traumatic circumstances, involving their parent’s drug or alcohol use. Kinship carers can fear being seen as unfit to look after the children, therefore services and schools must be proactive in reaching out and providing support in a non-judgmental way, not being too black and white. Services need to recognise that kinship carers are often dealing with very complex family situations, especially if they have an adult child who is struggling with a drug or alcohol issue. They are focused on the kinship children and prioritise their needs, but that does not mean they don’t have worries or anxieties about their own child/ relative and what support is available for them too.
For kinship carers themselves, I advise them to be as open as possible about their needs and what services can do to help them at the moment. Grandparents Plus and Family Rights Group are two really useful organisations which provide good advice specifically for kinship carers, so I encourage them to check that out. Also, if possible they should make use of virtual support; it may seem different, but it can help kinship families feel more connected during this time. The families I have been working with virtually seem to be really valuing the digital support, even though it is not what they are used to.”
Please get in touch with Jane for more information about the project in Peterborough.