DCSIMG

Vital kinship care for vulnerable young Fifers

In the week the Citizens Advice Bureau Scotland published an important report, 'Relative Values,' into the increasing role of kinship carers - family members caring for children whose parents are unable to do so - Tanya Scoon reports on a unique service operating in Kirkcaldy.

Time 4 U is a well-established group run by the Aberlour Child Care Trust in Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes.

It works with children and families affected by drug and alcohol problems, providing help and support to ensure children continue to thrive and develop as much as possible.

Many of the 30 or so children a week who use Time 4 U live with kinship carers - usually grandparents, aunts or uncles or other family members, because their own parents can't meet their care needs.

And the service, which has been operating since 2002, set up a 'Grandparent's Group' earlier this year to offer support, share experiences and give grandparents caring for their children's children time to mix with others in a similar situation.

Judith Morkis, service manager at Aberlour's Time 4 U, based at West Bridge Mill in Kirkcaldy, said: "Family problems leading to kinship care are usually stressful and upsetting for both the carer and the children involved.

"Kinship carers need to deal with the situation leading to the care arrangement, as well as cope with the often sudden responsibility of looking after children who can often be quite difficult to care for because they've experienced trauma, neglect or poor early care.

"Kinship Carers are absolutely invaluable, they need to have an income that can support them to look after children, but this is a real worry with local authorities facing massive cuts.

''Councils are simply not going to be able to increase their allowances and provide appropriate support for the large numbers of children and carers we are talking about.

"Kinship carers need other kinds of practical and emotional support too, any kinship carer will tell you it's not just about money.

"The 'Relative Values' report recommends that the voluntary sector take a role in developing kinship care support and Aberlour Child Care Trust is already doing what it can, here at Time 4 U and across some of its other services in Scotland."

Time 4 U provides children individual and group support through a programme of play sessions, group work and assessments.

The whole family is also supported at times when they could be more vulnerable.

Children affected by parental substance use can often experience a wide range of difficulties including social isolation, anxiety and irregular attendance at nursery or school.

Time 4 U works with children and families to assess existing strengths and support families to make positive lifestyle choices.

MARY'S STORY:

MOST people feel happy when they hear they are going to be grandparents. I was just worried sick. I knew my son and his wife were using drugs, and could barely look after themselves.

When my grandson Jack was born I was over the moon, but I still went down every day with food and nappies and to keep an eye on things.

His parents' habit got worse.One day, when Jack was nine months old I went in and took him.

I loved him and wanted him to be safe. I gave up my job and went part-time, and got a really good social worker. I thought about adopting -- in the end I went for a residence order. I wasn't entitled to Legal Aid so that cost me thousands.

The social worker suggested I apply for a residence allowance.

I felt really guilty about getting it at first, but I realised how much I needed it. I'd used up all my savings, cut back on my work, and I was struggling financially.

Jack is six now and there's no way I would ever let him go to strangers.

Grandparents usually get to do the nice bits – giving the bairns presents and treats -- but I sometimes have to lay down the law as well.

Mary is one of the grandparents in the support group at Time 4 U:

 
 
 

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