Episode 6: Moments of joy

In this episode we revisit our previous conversations with kinship carers to look back on some highlights and moments of joy, those special memories that make all the hard work so worthwhile and rewarding.

Graphic showing the front of three overlapping houses, set against a navy blue background.

Listen now

Use the player below to listen to this episode.

In this episode of Kinship Together, you can listen back to some of the highlights from our previous conversations with kinship carers. In particular, you can hear how kinship peer support groups  have such a positive impact on the lives of carers, their families. communities and even society more widely. And then we return to those moments of joy – those special memories – that make all the hard work so worthwhile and rewarding.

Read the transcript

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 our previous episodes, we spoke to kinship carers from a range of backgrounds who all shared their experience of being a kinship carer. Though each had their own story to tell, all found that meeting other kinship carers gave them connection, friendship and emotional support.

In this episode of Kinship Together, you can listen back to some of the highlights from those conversations. In particular, we’ll hear how kinship peer support groups have such a positive impact on the lives of carers, their families, communities, and even society more widely. And then we’ll return to those moments of joy, those special memories that make all the hard work so worthwhile and rewarding. Remember, you can learn more about kinship peer support groups and many other services for kinship carers by visiting compass.kinship.org.uk.

Okay. Let’s begin with a description of what a kinship carer is from Lucy Peake, Kinship’s Chief Executive.

Lucy Peake: So, kinship carers can be grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, brothers or sisters, or other members of the family or friends who’ve stepped up to take responsibility for raising somebody else’s child, often in a family crisis. So, it can happen really like overnight for some people, or sometimes with a little bit of warning. But it’s not the same as fostering and adoption where you make that conscious choice, “This is something I want to do and I’m going to go and do some training to become a foster carer or to adopt”. It’s something where often people are just, they’re thrown into it by circumstances.

Iain Broome: For Lucy, that uncertainty is one of the reasons peer support groups can be so important and makes such a difference.

Lucy Peake: You know, I think for lots of people, when you become a parent, you know lots of other people are becoming parents, and you do things with those families, and your children grow up with them. Peer support groups give that same opportunity to kinship families. So, carers will talk about how important it is for them to have people that they have things in common with, and who really understand them. But also for their children, and it’s really important for children who are maybe raised by their grandparents to say, “Actually, I know other people who were raised by their grandparents too, and it’s fine, it’s normal”. You know, carers talk quite a lot about how important that is, that their children see other children like them.

Iain Broome: Having done so much research on their own kinship journey, Peter and Maxine set up a peer support group where they can pass on everything that they’ve learned.

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: Gillian also leads a peer support group. As well as support, it’s brought her friendship and a great sense of companionship.

Gillian: My kinship care group is an absolutely fantastic group. I’ve got a lot of friends from other kinship care groups now that I would never have had before. I go on their trips and everything. There’s a few from our group go on their trips as well, and weekends away that we’ll have. So, I do enjoy my kinship. I really do. I love my kinship and I’m hoping to continue with that until whenever, whenever. I just love kinship. I’ll do anything for any of them.

Iain Broome: The experience of running the group has improved Gillian’s confidence to.

Gillian: it’s helped me massively, absolutely massively. I would never, ever have thought I would be doing now what I do for the group four years ago because I was just this shy person that sat back and let everybody else do everything. But we’re all a friendly bunch. We’re all, I don’t know what it is, we just all get on together. We’ve all got our own little things, I suppose. I don’t know. We all get on really well.

Iain Broome: Marisa shares the kinship care experience with her mum, and also runs a peer support group.

Marisa: The way that I felt after our first group is the way that I feel after every group. Every single time we get together, it’s just, it feels like a huge weight off your shoulders. You feel like you’ve built another family of people that totally understand, that totally accept, that allow you to rant and rave if you need to. We share advice, support, experiences, and that is, oh, it’s everything. I can’t even, I don’t know what I would do without it now.

Iain Broome: For Marisa, peer support groups are an important way for kinship carers to find people who truly understand them.

Marisa: I now run this wonderful group of people that we get together, and the thing that we all say that we get from a support group is, “It’s not just me, it’s not just me, I thought I was the only one”. And to me, that’s what peer support is. We are in an unusual situation. As I say, people don’t even know about the term kinship. So, we’re dealing with our, with the challenges that we have and we don’t know that there’s anybody else out there that’s going through something similar or worse in lots of cases.

Iain Broome: While there are many peer support groups where carers meet in person, some provide a place to share and meet online too. That’s exactly what Graham did with the peer support group he leads.

Graham: I met a few other kinship carers like myself in various locations and I went to quite a few meets with them and we decided to put groups together and go on outings with the children and things, you know, taking them for days out. When the children were much younger I played Santa Claus at numerous occasions for them. But it’s one of those, trying to get people to come and meet is a big task so I found that wasn’t working so I just opened a small group on Facebook for people near and around my area. It wasn’t easy but I finally got through and I’ve now got about 32 members on the page which is quite good and I feel proud I’ve achieved it, you know.

Iain Broome: Peer support groups can be a powerful life-changing experience for kinship carers, but they can have a much wider impact too as Lucy explains.

Lucy Peake: The magic also of peer support groups is, it’s not just about a cup of tea and a hug. I mean those things are really important. It’s also about the collective power of kinship carers, and so many of our kinship carers they go to those peer support groups and when they’re ready, they move into supporting each other. And then they’ll move into saying, “Actually, I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve gone through, and I’m going to change things”. So, peer support groups at Kinship are places where we bring Members of Parliament in. We talk about our campaigning and our influencing work. We connect kinship carers as change agents, and we’re really proud of that work.

Iain Broome: In our interviews, we asked the kinship carers we spoke to, to share a moment of joy. It could be something big and unique, or something more every day, but no less memorable. David became a kinship carer after his daughter passed away, and for him moments of joy come from seeing his grandchildren learn, grow and flourish.

David: I think, for me, it’s when they come home from school or nursery, and they tell me all about that day. They love it, they absolutely. And for me, that’s the highlight.And I think it’s that, it’s just when, or when something’s simple, or when they get on an iPad and they self-learn about the body. There’s a kid’s thing on there, on YouTube and it’s all about the body and how it works and when you get your three-year-old telling me, “Do you know when you go have a drink, do you know how you have a wee? I’m going to tell you where it goes”. And he’s learning this. I thought, “I love that” because I wasn’t that bright at three. Definitely not. Definitely not. So, it’s that and it’s making them feel loved. I think that’s it. And I know my daughter would be proud of what we’ve done.

Iain Broome: Gillian also found joy in the resilience of her grandchildren.

Gillian: My husband was an avid football fan, sport fan, like I don’t know what. The day I sat and explained to them that, you know, I says, “You knew Grandad wasn’t very well”. And then I said, “You know, Grandad’s died”. The oldest one sat up and she just went, “Does that mean there’ll be no more football on the telly?”. And I was just like, “No more football, no”. And I still can’t watch the football on the telly to this day because it was just constant in my house. But different little things that happen as well in the house. You know, the lights switch on and off, and now they’ll just go, “Grandad, we know you’re here, just leave it”. And it’s, it just makes me laugh because they’re not, they’re not frightened, and that’s the way I’ve made them, not frightened of it.

Iain Broome: Graham’s moments of joy goes back to the day he became an award-winning grandad.

Graham: Earlier on in the journey, Grandparents Plus was running a competition for Grandparent of the Year contest. And we was away on holiday in Wales at the time. I was there on my own with the two boys and I got a telephone text saying I’d won this competition that I’d applied for with Grandparents Plus and the boys will be entitled to 12 months’ worth of toys. And that was quite a big joy for us because it was mentioned in the local paper and the boys were excited. And we went down to London, which was a task for myself, going on the underground, never been with two young babies, and heading to London to pick up this award, and that was a little exciting for us all that.

Iain Broome: For Marisa, it’s the simple things that bring moments of joy. Smiles, hugs and love.

Marisa: Just seeing her smile in the morning, just seeing her, when she wins her dance prizes or her medals. Just knowing that she’s a happy little girl. She’s so happy and she knows she’s so loved. As I say, I don’t, I didn’t have children and that was, that was a choice, but all of a sudden I’ve been given this gift of this wonderful relationship. I think just when they reach out for a hug, when she reaches out for a hug, just and, she knows, she knows she’s got her people, and she knows that we’re there and she loves us for it.

Iain Broome: And finally for Peter and Maxine, there’s is a perfect example of how moments of joy, memories that last a lifetime can appear when you least expect it.

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. 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’s the end of our first collection of Kinship Together stories. Thank you to David, Gillian, Graham, Marisa, Peter and Maxine for sharing their kinship 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 also 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 others that they have specific things in common with. Maybe you’d even 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. Hopefully we’ll be back to share some more kinship stories with you soon.