Blog – Mentor Scotland: “We are excited for the future”
Welcome to Big Hearts’ Blog!
Every month, our blog will give you a unique opportunity to know more about Big Hearts’ work, with insights from our staff, volunteers and partner charities!
As this month marks two years of Big Hearts’ Kinship Care summer programme, Heather McVeigh, Director of Mentor Scotland, reflects on our successful partnership and the value of community support in raising awareness around Kinship Care.
COMMUNITY, FOOTBALL & NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR KINSHIP CARE FAMILIES
“Working with Mentor and Big Hearts over the last two years has had a very positive affect on our situation as Kinship Carers. So many opportunities have arisen and so many doors opened along the way. We are no longer just plodding along quietly as the only Kinship Carers we know, we are now pushing forward as part of the huge group of kinship families.”
I love this quote from a kinship carer and it emphasizes to me the success of our work and our partnership with Big Hearts Community Trust.
It is hard to believe that only two years ago on 21st July we were having initial discussions with Big Hearts about how we can support kinship families. Now 24 months later, we have jointly supported over 100 families, held 3 open family days, numerous outings, summer camps and held approximately 98 afterschool club sessions.
Football has always been regarded as a community sport, something that brings the community of all ages, genders and beliefs together. It is therefore not surprising that this partnership encouraged the involvement of community support services, the local authority, the health and fitness sector, the police, fire brigade, local trades and families. This has then cumulated into hundreds of Big Hearts Volunteers signing up and getting involved in community activities, trades offering services to families that often struggle to undertake home improvements, season ticket holders offering up tickets to families to attend games and ultimately the raising awareness of kinship care so that more families can come forward and access support.
Unfortunately, kinship care still is very much an unknown where grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or close family friends take on the care of a child or children full time because their parents are unable to do so. In doing so families face financial restraints, housing concerns, stigma, guilt and isolation as well as the emotional and physical needs of these children who may have been subjected to abuse, trauma or neglect. Finding support, information and advice is often very hard to find and access.
Working in kinship care for 9 years Mentor has witnessed firsthand the many challenges kinship families face. While providing advice, information and hands on support we have recognised the value of community support and so grabbed the opportunity to partner with Big Hearts with both hands; what a fantastic opportunity that has been.
We have witnessed young children grow in confidence and self esteem, radiate pride at being a mascot, play in a band, build new friendships, get involved in new and challenging activities. We have witnessed carers keen to take part in any learning opportunity, male carers coming forward and even taking part in yoga sessions and we have witnessed a complete change in attitude to healthy eating. The provision of a healthy cooked meal at each afterschool club has been fantastic and while there was some reticence at the start now families are always keen to try new and different things and even ask for seconds.
So I am excited for the future. I am excited for the new carers that come through the doors, I am excited for the current carers continuing to be supported and enveloped within the many opportunities available within the community that they live. I am excited for the development of our work with Big Hearts so that we can continue to go forward and support kinship families. The fantastic promotion and dedication of the Big Hearts Community Trust re-affirms the value of kinship care and of providing support to the children of our future.
Post written by Heather McVeigh, Director of Mentor Scotland, July 2017.