A Haverhill grandmother who is the legal guardian of her grandchildren is campaigning for more support for others in similar positions.
Carole Hearn, 48, is hoping to start a support group for kinship children, youngsters being raised by family but not birth parents.
“I am raising two of my grandchildren, one since he was six months old,” she said. “And I’ve had no support from anyone.
“The mother was young and couldn’t cope and I felt I would sooner look after the children myself than have them go into the care system.
“But once the children are in your care, social services seem to say goodbye.”
Mrs Hearn wants to set up a support group in Haverhill so that kinship children and their carers can have a better support network.
“There’s nothing in town at the moment,” she said. “I know there are other people here in the same situation as me.
“A kinship group would be somewhere people could go for advice if they’ve got a problem. It’s alright talking with friends but sometimes they don’t know where you’re coming from. You need to speak to someone who’s going through the same thing.
“We would like to provide courses, so people can learn to care better and cope with the pressures. It’s also about supporting each other but, mainly, it’s about the children.
“They need to speak to other children in the same situation as them. At school, they don’t get invited to parties.
“If they’re being raised by their grandparents, we don’t socialise so much with the other parents because we’re not the same age, which makes things difficult for them.”
Karen MacGregor is the chief executive of KinKids, a support group for kinship children and carers that is spreading across the UK.
She has agreed to assist Mrs Hearn in setting up a kinship support group in Haverhill.
“You shouldn’t have to fight for support,” said Mrs MacGregor. “It should be there all the time. Foster carers get respite. They get help with money and access to courses and support, but kinship carers don’t.
“It’s nice to keep children within the family, it’s nice to have that attachment, but there’s no support.
“It’s difficult. If you’re looking after grandchildren, you can’t do what you would normally be able to do when you’re in your 20s when you’re in your 50s. You’re a hell of a lot fitter when you’re young and you can deal with it.
“There’s a lot of pressure looking after children again and, sometimes, couples split up.
“It’s important for children too. They need to see other children in the same situation so they know they’re not alone.”
Anyone interested in joining the Haverhill support group should contact Mrs Hearn on 01440 713343. Support is also available from Kin Kids’ helpline on 07773661786.
“There are people offering moral support,” said Mrs Hearn. “It gets you through a bad day.”