A kinship care family – the Frasers* – living in a two-bedroom property and looking after their two young nieces, take on the care of a third child. They managed before, but now the house is too small, so they ask the local authority to find somewhere that can accommodate the whole family. They wait.
Then suddenly, they’re told they have four days to move. Four days to move to another town; to move with three young children and help them to settle into a new school; to move into a house in desperate need of refurbishment; and to do it all without enough money even to hire a removal van. The financial obstacles are compounded by the fact that, if the move takes more than four days, they will have to pay rent on both properties.
What do they do? Call the Families Together team!
In one hectic weekend, Mentor’s very own Nick Knowles (family support worker Yvonne Ramsay) and her formidable team, led by Families Together project manager Liz Johnston, rallied the support of the community to enable the family to start their new life with a fresh lick of paint. A group of enthusiastic volunteers painted the four-bedroom house from top to bottom, but the broken laminate flooring in the bedrooms could not be reused.
In response, Eddie O’Neil from Edinburgh Carpet and Flooring Warehouse stepped up, generously donating three new carpets for the children’s bedrooms.
With the house gleaming, the Frasers packed up their belongings; and Andy Lees of Andrew Wilson and Sons Ltd was on-hand to provide one of the company’s vans free-of-charge, enabling the move to go ahead and the family to make a new start within the tight deadline.
A few weeks later, with the family now settled into their new home, the Frasers contacted the team:
“As a family we are eternally grateful to Mentor, not only for organising this but for working their socks off. Without their support, our family was in danger of falling apart.”
Mentor is equally grateful for the generosity of the local community, who willingly gave up their time and resources to enable this family to make the fresh start that they deserve.
With the children settling into a new school and the family happy in their fantastic new house, this is, in part, a success story. But it also highlights some of the challenges faced by kinship care families, who regularly encounter almost insurmountable obstacles to securing things – like a family home – that most families take for granted.
Kinship care is never planned: many carers take children into their homes but do not have sufficient space or basic furnishings, with the problem compounded by a lack of large local authority housing in many areas of the UK. A study by Elaine Farmer and Susan Moyers found that a third of kinship families in England live in ‘overcrowded conditions’; Mentor’s own research in Scotland recorded the experience of carers who had to share rooms with children, to sleep on sofas and, in one case, to sleep on the floor for six months before suitable accommodation was found.
Luckily for the Fraser family, the wait wasn’t too long. Yet still, the enormity of uprooting their life under the most challenging of circumstances might have been too much if it was not for support from Mentor, who helped the children settle into school and assisted the family in negotiations with the housing department, and from the local community, whose voluntary service enabled the move to take place on time.
Adequate housing is a vital factor for child wellbeing, one that is often overlooked by those who take it for granted; it remains a significant issue for many kinship care families. We are thrilled that the Frasers now have a home in which to build a happy and healthy future for their children. And we hope that other kinship carers across the country, similarly, are able to draw on the support of their community in order to overcome challenges and to secure a positive future for the children in their care.
* Not their real family name.
 Farmer, E. & S. Moyers. 2008. Kinship Care: Fostering Effective Family and Friends Placements. London: J. Kingsley.