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A special guardian gives her view on the lack of support she has experienced:

I first became a Special Guardian in 2014, having no option but to take unpaid parental leave, to meet the complex needs and demands of a child deeply affected by childhood trauma, (who, two years later was given the life defining diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder).

Since then I have experienced five years of unmitigated chronic stress. This stress comes from dealing with the unique difficulties and challenges created by my child’s trauma, but is equally compounded by lack of informed, educated and accessible services.

In order to prevent my special guardianship child’s placement into care, I took him into my home. This decision means he was never a Looked after Child or LAC. This means he cannot access the necessary therapeutic and necessary intervention because he is NON-LAC or Lack of LAC (Looked After Child) status. This means he is still traumatised but unable to access the care he needs, compounding and preventing real recovery.

Because I am ‘just’ a special guardian, I had to take unpaid parental leave in a financially challenging and changing time – 54% of kinship carers will have to take unpaid leave to care for a child who can’t live with their parents and many will not be able to return to work – nearly half of  the respondents in the Family Rights group’s recent survey reported parenting children with disabilities and additional needs. We are surrogate parents as special guardians with parental responsibility for the child until a child reaches 18, But the government and my employer do not recognise the role of a special guardian – and where fathers, mothers and adoptive parents receive paid parental leave, I did not.

Because I am ‘just’ a special guardian, I have received no training (given and required by foster carers), no preparation (given to adopters), no adequate support, and no financial support. I have had to learn, navigate and tread through the complex, prohibitive and exhausting processes within the local authority to try to get support … only to be told I could, and then for it to be withdrawn due to my child’s Lack of LAC status.

Back in July, in our new Prime Ministers first speech, he promised to fix the social care crisis ‘once and for all’.
A spokesperson for Social Care advised:
‘We have given local authorities an extra £1.5billion for adult and children’s social care next year, on top of existing grants, to continue to stabilise the sector.”

Due to my special guardianship child’s Lack on LAC status this promised revenue would not be able to be accessed.

I have been encouraged to access charity driven funds to support the therapeutic intervention my child needs but no amount of private charity can and should compensate for a basic but chronic lack of social justice.

We have replaced humanity, common sense, heart and truth with processes, red tape, and bureaucratic, discriminatory processes.

This is neglect, on a national level. 

Because I am ‘just’ a special guardian, no one prepared me for the the night terrors, the physical assaults, the rages, the self harm: a traumatised child, destroyed my home, damaged his property, my property, assaulted me, himself, wanted to die, sabotaged “good things”, because he had experienced, witnessed and been on the receiving end of such neglect and cruelty, he was trying to survive. I live this without any adequate support. So does he.

Because I am ‘just’ a special guardian, I must arrange meetings, attend meetings, explain, discuss, defend, explain everything trauma related to those who could not grasp it, to be told by professionals who hold the purse strings, “ he will grow out of it”.

No, … no he won’t.

Because I am ‘just’ a special guardian and for all the people who stand with me, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends, none of us should be seen as ‘just’ a title – but rather fully recognised and honoured for the incredible hard work they do, silently, diligently, compassionately, Every. Single. Day. Without, ANY support.

They/we are healing, helping, and supporting children who through not fault of their own have been catapulted to a different world. They might be in a better place but the damage has all too often, already been done. Just because they are in a loving home does not fix the pain, the hurt, and the anger, the deep wounds. Just because they are safe does not mean they are not every day troubled, panicked, driven and contorted by the emotional pain of their past, with no informed, educated support to help them.

This is not the cry of an overwhelmed caregiver, but a voice of an advocate and a plea for recognition, as frankly without us special guardians,

these children would be in the care system. We are entitled to have the right support and understanding for our children. Trauma support is not commissioned in my local authority! Why??

As a special guardian I am the only link between my child’s past and his future. I defend him from an infrastructure that would so easily criminalise him and protect his future from a system that would, with the ongoing neglect and lack of care, derail his dreams and lower his reach – excluding and failing him.

The system has lost its heart, Where are the change makers?

Where are those in authority, with emotional gravitas to stand alongside these children?

This lack of support is far reaching and will create a new generation of broken lives if they are not repaired now.

This is systemic, chronic, social and governmental child neglect.

This lack of support is far reaching and will create a new generation of broken lives if they are not repaired now.
As Cathy Ashley concludes “It is time society and government does right by them”.


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