A couple who were forced to adopt their grandchild to stop her going into care have spoken about the lack of support available for so-called kinship carers.
Tabitha and Bob Peacock had been looking forward to a quiet retirement before they agreed to raise six-year-old Astrid, after her parents were unable to do so.
Mrs Peacock told the Yorkshire Post there was no option but to take on their granddaughter, despite the arduous journey to legally being her parents.
“It was a shock and not in our plans,” she said.
“We’ve had no financial support because we didn’t let her go into care for even a day. If she’d have gone into care, she’d be classed as a care-leaver and we’d have had some support,” she said.
Having always been careful with money in the hope of having an enjoyable retirement, Mrs Peacock said the lack of assistance has been a blow.
“We’re absolutely broke.”
She said the system did not acknowledge that thousands of people in Yorkshire were saving the public purse millions of pounds a year by absorbing the cost of raising children that would otherwise be the state’s responsibility.
Astrid, now nine, is the daughter of Mr Peacock’s daughter from a previous marriage, making her Mrs Peacock’s step-granddaughter.
Astrid is one of more than 17,000 children in Yorkshire being raised by kinship carers, family members who are not their parents.
The Peacocks, who live in Ripponden near Halifax, have a special guardianship order (SGO), a legal agreement similar to adoption but with a few small restrictions, such as being unable to leave the country for more than three months at a time or changing Astrid’s name without court approval.
It is a permanent arrangement where the couple are considered Astrid’s legal parents and have parental responsibility until she is 18.
Like many kinship guardians, the couple took on their granddaughter temporarily but made the arrangement permanent when they realised there was little alternative.
“My cat’s are both rescued, my dogs are rescued, the horses I had at the time were both rescued, I’m not going to not rescue a child,” she said, adding that she loves Astrid as a daughter and feels privileged to be able to look after her.
Becoming permanent guardians was an enormous but necessary step, in order to be able to make decisions on behalf of their granddaughter.
However, the vetting process was unpleasant and there was nowhere to turn for help. “They interrogated us. It’s humiliating, the assessment process.”
Though the social worker who assessed the couple was “great”, it was the system that put the family under pressure.
“We never knew whether we were going to get the SGO. It was very stressful.”
Later on, the family discovered Grandparents Plus and were able to access training and peer support. They have since met others locally in their situation.
“It came a bit late for us but I’ve still gone on all the training,” said Mrs Peacock.
She said it would have been really useful if she had known about it earlier.
Even simple administrative tasks, like getting a passport for the child, can be more difficult when you have an SGO.
The advocate the charity provided has been able to help.
“Someone to ring and cry to, someone to be the intermediary or explain things.
“It’s just a shame they’re not more well known. If we’d have known about them earlier, it would have made things easier.”