Lesley’s Kinship Care story: “From day one, I felt very welcomed”
Lesley is a carer for her 11-year-old granddaughter. After a few months of trying to adapt to this new living situation, she found out about Big Hearts’ Kinship Care programme.
“It was very hard at the start”
It was almost a year ago when I had my first chat with Sandra (1) at Big Hearts. The Coronavirus pandemic had started. I remember we met for a social distancing coffee! I’m a kinship carer for Miley who just turned 11. She came to live with me five years ago because her mom was away and then her dad – my son – left about a year ago and never came back. I never saw him since.
Back then, I was starting my job at 5am in the morning, but with a child to take care of I had to give it up. Sometimes when you are a kinship carer, people think you’re just doing your duty, because she’s your grandchil. That you shouldn’t be asking for help. It was very hard at the start. I was told I won’t be entitled to any financial support. I thought I would never cope. If it wasn’t for the carers group in Leith telling me about Big Hearts, I would be left struggling on my own.
“It’s nice to see what other families are up to”
The day I was invited to meet other carers on Zoom (2), I was a bit nervous. Seeing all the faces on the screen made me feel very welcomed and straightaway part of a family. I haven’t met any of them face to face yet. I feel like I know them very well though – because we regularly spend time online together.
We have this Whatsapp group where we post pictures of our activities. It’s nice to see what everyone is up to. One day, I was really sad and was able to share that in the group. Right away I got a lot of messages from everyone. It helped me move forward.
I don’t have any family up here, my daughter lives in Bristol. So it’s just Miley and me. We’ve stayed a lot in the house in the past year. Miley needed a buddy and she now has a Befriender (3). They’ve already made plans together. It’s important for Miley to have another adult to speak to in confidence, someone who isn’t her granny! It also means I get some time to myself once a week.
“Sandra is like a friend now”
As a Kinship Carer sometimes it feels like we don’t exist. I have to send an email every time I’m struggling. But at Big Hearts, they are the ones asking me ‘how are things?’. Sandra is like a friend now. Over the past year she’s been dropping off the food & activities packs and we get chatting. Usually, I don’t want to let her go away!
You know a person like me, in their sixties, doing all this as if I was 20 years younger is not easy. I really don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have Big Hearts. I worry that some carers out there have no idea of all the support they could get. My daughter says Big Hearts are like ‘angels on earth’. When I told them about Miley’s Raynaud’s disease, and that cold weather affects her hands, you know what did Big Hearts do? They sent us rechargeable hand-warmers! In a nutshell, it’s not only about the support & advice they provide to kinship carers, it’s about how they make you feel.
(1) – Sandra Henderson is the Big Hearts’ Family Support Officer, with significant experience in supporting families in a kinship care setting. Get in touch.
(2) – Carers are currently meeting up on Zoom as a safe alternative to the After School Club held at Tynecastle Stadium. More info here.
(3) – The Big Hearts Befriending service for young people is run in partnership with Space at Broomhouse Hub. Find out more.