I recently received a referral for a young girl being cared for by her grandparents; as always, I visited the family to assess the needs of both the child and the kinship carers. The carers’ eight-year-old granddaughter Lucy* was a very isolated child, who spent a lot of time alone in her room and struggled to make friends at school. I encouraged her to come along to our weekly youth group for children in kinship care.
The youth group was set up to allow children in kinship care to meet others in similar situation. ‘Kinship kids’ often encounter problems making friends, due to a lack of confidence borne from previous experiences of relationships as well as their own perception that they are ‘different’ to other children. The youth groups are based around a variety of fun social activities including arts, crafts and games, but the biggest impact comes from the realisation by children in kinship care that they are not alone: these groups offer them the opportunity to make new friends as well as to develop confidence and social skills.
(The youth group) lets them know that they are not the only one that lives with their Granny. They're all in the same boat.kinship carer who looks after her grandson
I was thrilled that Lucy had the courage to come to the youth group, but the transformation was beyond anything I could have expected. Within minutes, she was laughing and having fun with the other children and, on coming away, she excitedly told me how proud she was of the personalised place mat she had made during the session. Gran and Grandad were surprised and thrilled to hear how she had thrived at the group, compared to her previous difficulties at school and at home. They reported that she spent the entire car journey home talking about the activities, the other children and wondering what the following week’s activity would be.
The youth group is just one of the services provided by Families Together for kinship families. Lucy’s experience highlights the importance of peer support for children in kinship care, who can feel isolated and confused by their family situation. The youth group gave Lucy a safe space away from home and school to make new friends with children whose experiences she could relate to. Another carer saw similar benefits for her grandson, who also attends the group. “It lets them know that they are not the only one that lives with their Granny,” she told me. “They’re all in the same boat.” This knowledge gives children a valuable sense of belonging that helps build self-esteem and confidence which, ultimately, enables them to thrive in other environments.
* Lucy’s name has been changed to safeguard her identity.