Black History Month: Adelaide’s Story
5 minute read
My name is Adelaide. I am a kinship carer to my great-nephew. As part of Black History month, I was invited to write about my kinship journey and consider whether being black had made any difference to others who’ve taken on this role.
In 2010 I was contacted by my cousin living in America who said a relative of ours living in England with her partner and their two-year-old son, had given birth to premature twins. Children’s services were involved, and the twins were going into foster care due to concerns about neglect due to both parents’ learning difficulties.
My cousin said she was willing to adopt the twins if necessary and was coming to England to enable her assessment with children’s services to start. She invited me along to the meeting and I met the professionals working with the family. Later, my cousin and the social worker asked me to continue to support the family when she returned home which I agreed to do.
Children’s Services were extremely grateful to me and invited me, with the permission of the parents, to all their meetings, and even asked that I be able to attend the court hearings in addition to supporting the family.
The hospital had concerns about the parents’ hygiene which led them not seeing the twins. I was asked if I could visit the babies and did so, several times a week for months before they went into foster care.
Children’s Services held a family group conference and asked if I would be willing to help the parents clean, cook, do their laundry, and care for their son and I agreed.
I lived in Buckinghamshire, the family, the hospital, and children’s services’ offices were all in London. I was travelling several times a week, every week for over a year. I was not working, nor did I have savings. I used my credit cards to fund everything. I got into many thousands of pounds of debt over that year which I then could not repay and had to take out a five-year loan to clear.
The local authority then asked me to take the family into my home so I could supervise them. I did agree to this, even without them offering to pay for anything. However, as I was due to go into hospital for a medical procedure this did not happen. Instead, they were placed into a family assessment centre where I regularly visited them to give them extra support.
I mentioned to a friend that I was worried about the debts I had as a result of trying to support the family. She told me that, as the local authority had asked me to do all these things, they should at least be paying for my travel warrants. When I asked, there was no problem in getting it authorised, so why had no one ever told me or bothered to mention all the money I had previously spent?
Unfortunately, the parents received a negative assessment, and I was told that either I took over the care of their son within two weeks or he was going into foster care. I had to say yes, and he has been with me ever since.
His parents were originally happy that he wasn’t going into foster care but when he came to me and then they lost the care of his younger sibling’s things changed and now none of the family speak to me, instead accusing me of stealing him from them.
Throughout my journey I have learnt that it does not matter what colour you are, the most important thing is for kinship carers to be able to access proper information about financial support and our legal position and what help is available for the children we’ve taken on. This is especially true for those, like mine, who have additional needs.
I personally felt I was treated well by all the professionals, but I was left in terrible debt, even though they knew I was on benefits, but I do not believe this had anything to do with my colour. Unfortunately, to me, it felt like it was more to do with the local authority not considering that kinship carers need proper advice and help during this strange process that we know nothing about. Without that support, those of us trying to put ourselves forward to love and care for these children, can ultimately suffer.