We often deal with cases where, for whatever reason, children cannot continue to be brought up by their parents and extended family members step in to care for them instead. Such people are known as Kinship Carers. The benefit of this for the child is that they are able to remain within their birth family (rather than being placed in foster care or for adoption) and they are often able to maintain more meaningful contact with their parents.
However, for the Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and others who take over care for these children life can be difficult. They are often put in the position of having to take over care for the children at very short notice and as a result of their desire to avoid children going into local authority care they agree to take on the responsibility. This can turn their lives upside down as many of them have already had children who are now grown up and were not expecting to be carers for (often very) young children again.
As well as practical difficulties there can be financial ones. It is often difficult for them to access benefits that they are entitled to claim for the children that they are caring for leaving them in sometimes very tough financial circumstances. They may also have to spend money on altering their homes to make them suitable for the children. This can range from purchasing new beds right through to having extensions or loft conversions. A recent study has shown that the result of this is that many children being cared for in such arrangements are living in poverty.
Although it is sometimes possible to obtain funding and support for such arrangements from local authorities the carers can often find themselves facing obstacles to accessing this support.
At Higgins Miller we often represent extended family members in care proceedings and if you would like some advice as to your rights as a kinship carer then please contact us to arrange an appointment.