Being A Kinship Carer- My Brother’s Call Me “Brad”
Sometimes my brothers call me “Brad”. The first time I heard it I really didn’t realize what they meant by it. At first I thought it was like calling me a common name just for fun like “Bob” or “Joe”. When they told me it was for brother/dad it made me chuckle at how crazy kinship care is. Around 2.7 million kids are being taking care of by kin other than their parents in the United States. Some would think that this family situation would run pretty smoothly, but as many kinship carers already know that’s not always the case. Though a great alternative to the typical foster care living arrangements, being a kinship carer has its many strains. I thought about being a kinship carer to my brothers when I moved out of my foster home at the age of 17. Now that I actually am a kinship carer to my brothers, I am glad that route didn’t happen because I needed some time to grow up.
I don’t think there are very few instances a family is ready to just take on another family members child, no matter how the relationship between the kin or length of stay. From being a brother to a grandparent, being a kinship parent to a child that you’re not really the parent of can be life changing, more than I imagine one would think. Sometimes there’s financial help sometimes there’s not, it just depends on the situation. For those fortunate enough to receive aid it’s often times not enough to cover everything a child really needs to live a normal life. Those of you that are parents already know kids can be expensive. Having two teenagers ages 14 and 16 has doubled my food bill alone. Then you add up clothing, increased utilities, school and sports related bills, and that’s still not covering hygiene and extra stuff. In most kinship family situations there is no state involvement which leaves many families strained in the financial realm. Even if you can claim the children on taxes, a couple extra thousand doesn’t help enough throughout the whole year. It’s sad to think that families or individuals step up to take on others responsibilities, making sacrifices, often without enough financial help and guidance for them or the child.
Aside from the financial aspect, some kinship families (such as my own) also run into situations which can make it confusing on what your role is in the family. For example the situation with my brothers calling me BRAD. It’s sometimes confusing for them to decipher when it’s time for our brother relationship and when they more have to listen to me like more like a father. One minute we can be joking like brothers, the next I could be correcting them or telling them something that they need to do. This can be confusing and hard for me as an older brother as well. I want to be their brother and their friend, but I also know that I must have the respect from them to where they know they have to do what I say. I feel like if we had parents, I could be more of a brother because they would have parents watching over them. With our situation, I’m the one watching over them and I’m only responsible for getting them ready for the world but give them the tools to be successful. I’m their brother, but I have to be the kinship parent.
A majority of the kin taking on parental responsibilities are grandparents also known as “grandfamlies”. One of my twitter followers who does kinship care for her grandson shared with me what things are like in her kinship situation. She says “We were once Grandma Mom & Papa. Now are Mommy and Dad. His Mom still wants me to be her mommy. She is 32. It’s very difficult family wise. Other adult children and grand children have hard time with acceptance of this situation and want nothing to do with their sister. I am not even allowed to talk about her to them. They are very jealous of the little guy. I can’t be the super Grandma I once was. I don’t have time to mourn the loss off what I wanted for my daughter when I am so busy raising her son. I miss her. But it messes up the little guy if we spend time together. He wants her. I want her to have active role in his life, but not until it can be healthy for him. He doesn’t understand that. We have let go of what we thought we wanted in life in order to embrace the life we have.”
Even though it’s with family and it’s better than the alternative, being kinship carer is a tough journey.