Episode 5: "From this date to forever"

In this episode, we chat to Peter and Maxine who talk about how they took all their research on kinship and became peer support group leaders, where they share it with other kinship carers.

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In this episode, we chat to Peter and Maxine who’ve been kinship carers for around eight years to two children – Maxine’s grandchildren and Peter’s step-grandchildren. Peter and Maxine have a special guardianship order, which means they have long-term legal responsibility for the children they care for. They talk about how when they became kinship carers, they quickly found themselves needing to research and gather as much information about the role as possible. Over time, they decided to take everything they learned and use it to help other kinship carers by setting up a kinship peer support group in their local area, which they still run today.

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The text below is a direct transcription of this episode of the Kinship Together podcast.

Welcome to Kinship Together, a podcast that shares stories, experiences, and advice for kinship carers. Brought to you by Kinship, the charity for kinship carers in England and Wales.  

In this series, you’ll find out what it means to be a kinship carer from people who are going through the experience. This includes the highs and lows, and the everyday challenges. All the kinship carers in this series have found that meeting other kinship carers has brought them connection, friendships and emotional support.

We’ll hear why peer support and volunteering have brought such meaning and sense of belonging to our guests. Whether that be attending local groups, talking together on the phone or connecting online, there is great power in facing challenges together. And that’s one of the most important things that kinship carers tell us they need – emotional support and the feeling that you’re not alone. We’ll also ask every guest to share their moments of joy as a kinship carer, those things that make it all worthwhile. Hopefully you’ll pick out some useful advice along the way too. 

In this episode, we chat to Peter and Maxine who’ve been kinship carers for around eight years and have a special guardianship order, often called an SGO. That means they have long-term legal responsibility for the children they care for. On becoming kinship carers, they quickly found themselves needing to research and gather as much information about the role as possible. Over time, they decided to take everything they learned and use it to help other kinship carers by setting up a kinship peer support group in their local area, which they still run today. You can learn more about Kinship’s support groups at compass.kinship.org.uk.  

Here we go. This is Peter and Maxine’s story.  


Iain Broome: Thanks for joining us today. Really appreciate your time. We’re going to start by asking you, how you came to be kinship carers, and how long ago that was, and I guess a little bit of your backstory. 

Peter and Maxine: So, it was about eight and half years ago, our youngest was eight months old and our eldest was six. Just after her sixth birthday. Their Maxine’s grandchildren, so my step-grandkids, and they came to live with us when their birth mom couldn’t look after them anymore.  

Iain Broome: And were you aware of kinship care as a thing before then? Were you aware of the, even the term? 

Peter and Maxine: No. No, it’s nothing we’d come across. For about four years she’d been involved with social services. So, we had had lots of meetings and sort of support things through social services, but nobody had ever mentioned, you know, kinship or special guardianships or anything like that until the day they phoned us and asked us to have them. Yeah. It was all a bit of a shock. 

Iain Broome: Yeah, that was going to be my question actually. So how did that feel at the time and what was the experience like for you sort of having that big change, I guess? 

Peter and Maxine: Well, we’d been through an awful lot of support programs, so we’d done, had family group conferences and things like that to try and support birth mother to look after them. So, birth mum and the two children moved in with us to try and see if we could help stabilise things without having to separate the kids from the birth mum. And then, yeah, it was soon after that, that that wasn’t working out, that they, I was away at work, wasn’t I? Mmmm. I was up in Scotland at the time working and they phoned up Max and asked if we could have the children so it was all a bit of a mad dash then to get everything organised. We were living in a two-bed flat at the time. Yeah, our spare bedroom was a storage room. Yeah, it had all of my work kit in it. So, it was a mad dash home to empty out the spare room, try and find some furniture for the children and actually get things organised so that they could come and live with us. Yeah.  

Iain Broome: And what was it like sort of getting information at that point? I suspect there was a lot that you didn’t know, I guess. 

Peter and Maxine: No, we didn’t know anything. Social services were not particularly forthcoming with any information. I’m sort of built for research, so as soon as that phone call came, you know, I was on the internet looking at, you know, what happens, what the regulations are, and all the rest of that. So, it was a minefield trying to navigate it, especially when social services just sort of drop two children off and then say, “Oh, we’ll see you in a couple of weeks”.  

Iain Broome: And at what point did you start getting involved with peer support? And did that come later, or was that part of the initial part of your journey? 

Peter and Maxine: Came later. Yeah, that came later. Probably about two years after the kids had came to us and the SGO was signed off, we started looking for other people who might be in the same situation, just to answer questions that we had. Trying to get information out of social services was dreadful. So, we actually found a local grandparent’s group that we went to that we just didn’t gel with, did we? No, because they were older and their children were older, they were teenagers.  So, we got the insight of when they’re going to be teenagers, but nothing when they’re younger so that was a bit difficult for us. Yeah, it was just trying to find people who had younger children, and how they managed things, which then led us to a couple of different groups and then eventually starting our own. 

Iain Broome: Yeah, tell me about it. What made you want to take that step? 

Peter and Maxine: Because of the amount of research and time that I’d spent, we had spent behind learning about the whole system, it was a shame that it didn’t help anybody. So having, you know, starting up a actual support group and having a local one meant that that information can be passed on to people who are even at the very beginning of their journey. You know, we have one lady at our group who is still going through the court process, so, you know, we can help her get things tied in for supporting her children there because we know we’ve been there, done it. We’ve missed the boat by a few things and we can stop other people missing out. 

Iain Broome: And tell me about your group. Like how big is it? How often do you meet? 

Peter and Maxine: We meet once a month. At the most I think we’ve had about 18-19 people. Yeah. There’s sort of a core group of about five or six who turn up, then other people dip in and out. It’s a good group. The people have been through an awful lot. It’s quite a big variation in what people have been through and how they’ve been handled. And generally everybody’s story is vastly different apart from the fact that they’ve all been, you know, taken on some children at the drop of a hat.  

Iain Broome: What was it like when you first kind of met another kinship carer? When you said you were looking for a group to try and find people that were in a similar situation, what was that feeling like when you kind of realised that there were people that were in a similar situation to you? 

Peter and Maxine: It was nice to go to those groups, actually see people who had, you know, who’d lived through it, they’d already gone through the child side, they were all dealing with their teens. So, it was nice to know there were people out there who understood how we were feeling and what was going on. Finding people with similar age children was another leap for us in terms of how it felt, comfort wise. Because we were all venting about the same things and coming across roughly the same issues. And it was really nice to have a group of people to discuss those with, especially with both of our kids, they have attachment disorder, and some other underlying things means that you can’t always go down those default routes. You have to utilise things like therapeutic parenting styles and the bits that you never really think of normally. Probably because you don’t know what you don’t know either. So, until you come across these things, you don’t realise there’s a new style of parenting out there. 

Iain Broome: Yeah, I was going to say, so that’s like a very specific thing. So therapeutic parenting, is that something that other people in the group have also got experience of? 

Peter and Maxine: Yeah, a lot of people haven’t heard of it. So, you know, they come to group and they talk about a specific issue they’re having, sort of managing a child’s anxiety or something like that, or getting them to do a specific task where if you go in that direct parenting route, it doesn’t work. Whereas you look at things like therapeutic parenting and PACE training, it takes you around the outside of solving the problem instead of going straight through the middle. And it works really well with some children, doesn’t it? Especially with ours. Yeah, well it works well with some children but not others. And you know, you just, people are finding that out, what might work for one doesn’t work for the other necessarily so you’re end of an avenue. You go away from a meeting with three different things to try instead of one. One, yeah. 

Iain Broome: What’s it feel like to be a group leader? Like, it’s obviously, there’s a level of responsibility, it’s something that you choose to do, it’s something that you’ve put yourself forward to do. I just wonder how it, what it’s, what the experience of being a group leader’s like? 

Peter and Maxine: It’s just a nice feeling of being able to help people. It’s something Max, prior to the kids coming to us, I’d always worked with people like that, and you know, for me, my work never gave anything back to people, you know, in that sort of community sense. So, it’s nice to do that. Yeah. And like I say, all the knowledge that we built up over the last eight years goes to a good use then instead of just sitting inside our heads not doing anything. 

Iain Broome: And what do you think makes peer support important? Like what is the, what are the kind of biggest benefits that you, that you can, I guess, that can see almost with the people that you are? 

Peter and Maxine: You’ve got someone at an end of a, you know, a message, you know, an email or if they’re struggling and stuff like that, you know, they can get hold of someone. Our Facebook group, isn’t it? Yeah. We’ve got a Facebook group, you know, and you just ping someone a message and you know, there’ll be a few people who actually, possibly has got an answer who’s been through it, you know. It stops you from feeling alone. Yeah. You know, it’s quite isolating when you first get your SGO signed off, or these kids come to live with you. Especially for us and we had no kids living at home. Yeah. So, you know, to go from being a couple who were out doing stuff all the time to then having these two kids around that needed full-time care meant that our social circle just evaporated. That’s what most families find. Yeah. Most, most kinship carers do. A lot of carers find it, you know, their social circle just disappears and they have nobody to talk to, nobody to discuss the problems with and it’s quite isolating. Yeah. 

Iain Broome: I suppose if you haven’t planned for that, or you weren’t expecting it, it’s like an extra shock I suppose. 

Peter and Maxine: Yeah. You know, you look at the statistics for couples that break up because of it. With stress. Family breakdown because, you know, marriages breakdown because of it. You know, not having that support around you that can help support you as an individual, or you as a marriage, is hard. 

Iain Broome: How has being part of a peer support group and I suppose also like being, leading the group, has that changed your view of yourself as a kinship carer in any way? 

Peter and Maxine: I wouldn’t have said it’s changed my view of us. Don’t know about you? I think it’s shown how much we have actually learned over the years. You know, we have had to tackle an awful lot of things through social services, you know, even through our own personal issues. Yeah. You know, the kids were with us for two years and I had a spinal cord injury, so, you know, our life was upside down again. So, then you go to social services to see if they can offer you some support. So, it’s all that stuff that we learnt on how to manage the system as well as, you know, how to be parents again. 

Iain Broome: What’s the best thing about being a kinship carer? 

Peter and Maxine: Seeing the kids’ potential, isn’t it? Yeah. How they’ve grown. Yeah, how they’ve grown from when they first come here and the issues they’ve had. Yeah. And the counselling they’ve had and everything else, to now where they’re thriving, where the oldest one’s top class, top sets in school. She going Marines and she wants to. Yeah. And she knows what she wants in life. The little ones settled. It took a long time for the settling. So yeah, that’s what makes it worthwhile. Yeah. Seeing them blossom into actual people with, you know, stability. 

Iain Broome: Are you able to kind of recognise and appreciate your own role in that having stepped into this role as a kinship carer? 

Peter and Maxine: Yes, especially with the eldest, because we saw her, you know, growing up. She was a mother figure to the youngest one at the age of six, so was got quite hard for her to let go. Yeah. She struggled to sort of step back from that motherly role and let us take it over. But you know, when she came to us, she was angry about, well, she was angry with the world. So, it’s been really nice to see her process that through various therapies and support, and programs, and then come out the other side with ambition and goals and, you know, just fairly level-headed teenager, if you can get a level-headed teenager. 

Iain Broome: I’ve heard they exist, just a rumour. What’s your main piece of advice for a kinship carer?  

Peter and Maxine: It’s a tricky one. There’s so much, so much advice that a new kinship carer needs. First main bit would be to go to a support group. Find local people who are in the same situation to help share that burden. Yeah. Because dealing with it alone can be an awful lot. And it makes it a little bit easier and you make friends as well, you know, you don’t feel shut out of it. Yeah. So isolated when there’s people around that understand and you haven’t got to go and tell them your entire life story because they all understand it already. 

Iain Broome: When you think about the future, for the children and for you too, I guess, what do you see? 

Peter and Maxine: Wow. You know, as far as the kids are concerned, they’re doing really well. So our eldest definitely knows what she wants, so hopefully she can achieve her goals and her dreams. And for us it’d be nice at some point to have a honeymoon, we never got one. 

Iain Broome: That’s a good answer. Every one of these interviews I’m asking people if they have any, if you have any moments of joy to share, that’s the phrase I’ll be using. So, do you have any moments of joy that you can share with us? So, it could be something like really big, or it could be just like an everyday kind of thing. 

Peter and Maxine: I think for me was when they asked if they could call us mum and dad. Because they’d always called us nanny and grandpa, right up until, they’d been here about four years, hadn’t they? Yeah. And we were just sat, Max and I were sat down watching telly and they came downstairs with a painting that they’d done and asked us if they could call us mum and dad instead, in a sort of quite official way. It was quite bizarre at the time, but it was just, you know, a testament to the fact that they felt settled and comfortable and happy. It was nice but it was hard. It was hard. It showed that we must be doing something right.  

Iain Broome: I like how they came together, and sort of, as if they’d like over hatching a plan. 

Peter and Maxine: Yeah. That was it. They drew a painting with flowers on it and all sorts, it’s hung up in the hallway. Yeah. Wrote on, wrote the date on it, didn’t they? Yeah. From this date to forever. Nanny and grandpa from a date in 2009, and then mum and dad from this date onwards. 


So that was Peter and Maxine’s kinship story. Thank you to them both for sharing their kinship care experience with us. If you’re a kinship carer, or you know a kinship carer and want to learn more about the support we offer at Kinship, visit our website at compass.kinship.org.uk. 

Our free phone advice line is for kinship carers living in England or Wales. You can call us, book an appointment or search online for information tailored to your situation. You can attend free workshops on specific topics related to kinship care. You can get emotional support by finding a peer support group near you using our postcode finder. We also have a range of online support groups, including some for kinship carers who want to talk to other kinship carers that they have specific things in common with. Maybe you’d like to start a group of your own. You could become a volunteer, like many of our guests on this podcast, and use your experience to help other kinship carers by offering them a listening ear and sharing your experiences with them. Thank you for listening to Kinship Together. Join us for our next episode, where another kinship carer shares their unique story.