One of the strange sensations that you get as a kinship carer is that of having a back seat driver criticising your abilities. Maybe it happens with foster carers, too.
Especially in the early days of your caring for these children you will have regular Core Group meetings. They may also be called Child in Need meetings in certain circumstances. But the basic format is the same. All the key people in the child’s life meet at least every six weeks to review the situation. Following their regular (every ten days) invasions of your privacy, reports are presented by the health visitor, school staff, psychologists (if involved), and finally Children’s Services. Anyone else who has significant information may also present it. So the foster or kinship carers may be asked for their input.
However, the strange thing is that the parents also have a say. After all, they have valuable information about the children, not to mention that overcoming their issues could lead to the children being restored to their care. They can comment, ask questions, and generally make you feel like you are being cross-examined in court. The other grandparents can come along and stick their oar in, too.
So, here you are in the meeting. The children kept you up all night. In fact, it took well over two hours to get them to bed, let alone go to sleep. Then they woke you every forty five minutes, and were wide awake an hour and a half before the alarm.
You stumbled around, getting breakfast that they distributed all over the dining room, and you were eventually met with the demand that they wanted to be fed, even though they are quite capable of feeding themselves, and do so at school lunch, which you have to fund out of your own pocket. And you knew that you had to comply because otherwise they would have gone into school telling the teacher that you “refused to feed” them, this morning, and you would have been met by the police at picking up time.
Then there was the fight, literally, to get them dressed and out the door to school. How they never get bruises baffles you. After all, unless you hang on tightly to their arm, digging your fingers in while they pull in the opposite direction, their defiant behaviour means that they are likely to fall and break a bone. Cue more questions by well meaning busybodies.
Finally, you rushed home to clean up the mess, change the soiled bed sheets and get then in the washing machine, before heading out the door for your 10.00 a.m. meeting at the other end of town.
Oh, and by the way, you have to pay the travel costs to the meeting, and to contact sessions, and for family outings that you would not take if you did not have these children to look after. Yet the parents who have caused all the problems are on benefits and get their travel costs reimbursed.
And you sit there, all eyes on you, explaining that you couldn’t take them to visit their cousins, on Saturday, because you had a problem with the car.
And the parents launch their attack. You are not sticking to the agreement. You signed this piece of paper, agreeing to provide access to the wider family, and you failed to comply. And their children are suffering because you are not looking after them properly. You should be taking them on excursions far more often than you do. It’s wrong that they have to sit at home all weekend.
Yes. These people whose “care” for their children was so bad that the children now live with you, (and for whom you get no funding until you have been assessed as being suitable parents), want to tell you how to raise their children. And you have to sit there and treat the parents with “the respect to which they are entitled,” while they are free to abuse you at every turn.
Congratulations. You’ve been struck with the curse of the back seat driver.