“I think life’s a challenge,” Linda says wistfully…
As a grandmother of thirteen, and carer of five, Linda knows what she’s talking about.
Life is a challenge. It’s fair to say the majority of us encounter stormy seas in life.
Linda’s challenge began in 2010. She was made redundant from her managerial role in a department store and by the next month, her mother had lost her fight with lung cancer. Within a week, two of her grandchildren were sent to her house in a taxi with no explanation. ‘Just keep hold of them a little while, while we try and find out what’s going on,’ she was told by social services.
Six years later and Linda is now looking after five of her grandchildren – at one point she had six of them. Linda has a full-time job on her hands with a house full and all the responsibility that entails. There’s little time for Linda to see friends, go out anywhere with her partner, Keith, or even have a moment of peace and quiet to herself.
Linda was referred to Safe Families for Children by her social worker after begging for respite ever since being given responsibility as carer of her five grandchildren. Within two days of Linda being told about Safe Families, she was meeting the Host Families who had been selected for the three youngest children.
One woman, Laura, takes the kids during day time hours on weekends and a couple, Ian and Jane host overnight; providing an even longer period of respite for Linda.
For Polly and Tilly, two of the three hosted children, it’s a welcome change of scenery. Before they were with Linda, their lives truly were a challenge; they were neglected and malnourished.
Linda discovered that their diet consisted mainly of crisps and water, and often they were locked in the house while mum went out drinking. Tilly wasn’t even a year old and she was only given water to drink, “no baby milk, or even cow’s milk for her; nothing.”
But the impact of the Host Families has really shown the girls that life doesn’t always have to be a challenge. In fact, the girls have shown everyone else how much potential they have despite all they have been through. They love being hosted and they come home asking Linda ‘When are we going again?’ ‘I want to go back!’ ‘Can I have their phone number?’
For Ian and Jane, “it’s not a massive input for what can make a huge difference to a child’s life and upbringing.” They delight in dedicating their weekend to Polly and Tilly, “It’s just a plus-plus situation: it’s a plus for the children; it’s a plus for the families; and actually, it’s a plus for yourself.”
“It’s really come at a good time for us as well. Because we were really at the end of our tether with all the kids. So much so that we were thinking about putting them into care because it was getting too much.”
Just as Linda felt things finally getting the better of her, willing volunteers were put in place to offer support. Linda has the respite she has been longing for; Laura, Ian and Jane have been blessed by taking the children into their homes; and most importantly, the children have not had to enter the care system.
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