Unique Awareness Project - #kintender
It was felt that it was important to show the emotions behind becoming a Kinship Carer. Taking on the responsibility of caring for a family member’s child full time, in the vast majority of cases, happens at very short notice. This results in a major upheaval of one’s life and a realisation that the Carer is ignorant of their rights or where to turn to.
The August 2012 Awareness Raising Campaign
A Twitter campaign using a soap opera format seemed to be ideal as it provided a tight format to work, with the ability to drop bits of info in as it’s discovered. Links to info and organisations could also be included in the Tweets. Three initial characters; Joanne Carr (the Carer), Melissa Jenkins (her sister) and the Social Worker were created. The aim was to show the process; closing with the children ending up with the Carer permanently. The character's tweets were linked by @kinshipcarer following them with each Tweet having #kintender at the end. The campaign started Saturday 4th August 2012.
The campaign took a twist when it was realised that it was taking a life of its own with “real” people outside the group offering guidance, advice and the links that we would have provided. It was then decided to work in real time with the current ending still to be decided. We have had to remove the Social Worker as it is unrealistic that she would converse with the other characters via Twitter. Melissa and Jo’s Mum has now been added (she has just come back from holiday and is oblivious to recent events) to act as some sort of mediator.
It must be noted that whilst the characters are not real, the events and situations that the Carer finds herself are inspired by real events.
The Story So Far
Melissa Jenkins (mother of 2 children) has gone into hospital to have her 3rd baby. Previous concerns raised about continual, sustained injuries on the second child and a denial from both Melissa and her partner (Mark) have resulted in the children being removed and placed in Joanne Carr’s care whilst the investigation takes place. Melissa suggested Joanne as a Carer when asked by the Social Worker. The baby, once born, has also ended up in Joanne’s care.
Joanne has discovered that, legally, she can’t claim Child Benefit for 8 weeks though her sister can. Joanne has been advised that the baby may have Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) due to Melissa’s constant drinking. Far from showing any change, Melissa has decided to go on a 3 day party with her partner and has ended up with no money.
Joanne has had to give up a craft fair that she has booked over the weekend in order to supervise contact visits on Saturday and Sunday. These are needed as both children have different fathers, and the father of the oldest has demanded access.
Melissa, on finishing her “bender” has now got no money and has become abusive with Joanne to the point where Joanne felt she had to give her the money so Melissa could get to the contact visit. The visit has been arranged at a soft play centre as it’s neutral territory. The Carer is being assessed by Social Services to look after the child long term, even though there is no decision as to whether she will keep children in the long or short term. Likewise, her boss is not happy with the time she is spending during working hours trying to sort things out.
Our Carer has been advised to speak to Grandparents Plus, download free advice sheets from Grandparents’ Association and seek out Family Rights Group. Two of these groups were advised by Tweeters not involved in this awareness campaign.
Our Carer has had to cancel attending craft shows to supervise contact visits with her sister and the children’s respective fathers. The first proved to be very uncomfortable with Mel (the biological mother) ignoring the children and constantly texting or playing games on the phone. During the second visit we discovered that Mel is still sleeping with both fathers. The father of the eldest then went round the Carer’s house banging the door and shouting in the street. He claimed to be the father of the baby and demanded a DNA test.
The subsequent contact visit went without incident but both fathers were then arrested on suspicion of abusing the second child whilst further enquiries were made. Both were subsequently released on bail. The Carer and her sister’s mother has returned from holiday and has tried to mediate.
The Social Worker turned up to assess Joanne as a long term Carer of her sister’s children. This involved a very intrusive interview where the Social Worker needed to know about Joanne’s income, sex life, work, hobbies, family dynamics, her support network and holidays. The children’s Guardian Ad Litem then came to explain that she was acting as the voice of the children and that they would get their own solicitor when it goes to Court.
Following further investigations, the Police charged the Drew (the father of the eldest child) with assaulting the middle child. As Mel was living with Mark (the father of the second child), Social Services have decided that the children should be returned into their care but should remain on the At Risk Register as there may still be issues with drink and drugs.
The children were collected from the Carer, who has expressed concerns about the children’s welfare with her sister, by a Social Worker. Once the children were returned Joanne, the Carer sent her love to the children via her sister to be met with the parting shot “None of your damn business. You will NEVER EVER see MY kids EVER again”.
Whilst the characters are fictitious, the stories, situations the Carer finds herself in and the feelings she has are real and lived by many Kinship Carers. Kinship carers find themselves in an unenviable position of having to be the “enemy” to family members to ensure the safety and security of the children in their care.
Is the return of the children to their mother and her partner, the correct decision or will the Carer’s fear be realised? We will have to wait and see.
You can keep an eye on the campaign here
Using #Kintender has meant that previous Tweets can be viewed easily.