Family Action is committed to supporting all families, and we don’t believe there is any “normal” family situation. Retirement is often the period where people look forward to a life free from the responsibilities of work and raising a family. Special Guardians inherit the caring role from their children, starting again from the beginning. Here Ruth* tells us whilst this can be difficult, she wouldn’t change a thing about the family they’ve built together.
It’s funny…once it happens to you then you realise that it’s not that uncommon now to be a Special Guardian – I know a couple of other people that have had to take on caring responsibilities for their grandchildren.
Once it happens to you then you realise that it’s not that uncommon now to be a Special Guardian
In my case it was more difficult though, due to my grandson’s additional needs. He’s got Global Development Delay and Cerebral Palsy, and as a baby he was on a lot of medication. It was harder initially as, at that point, he wasn’t diagnosed; We just knew he had a weakness in his right side, and it was hard to diagnose until he walked.
It took him a lot longer to achieve things than other kids and it was tough for me to see that he wasn’t meeting those milestones. I remember going to a “normal” playgroup when he was little, and they kept asking me how old he was and why he wasn’t walking yet. I thought “you know what… I’m not going to explain to you”, so I started to go to a local specialised toddler group. There were other children with additional needs, and it was lovely. It was so great, and I made friends through attending.
My partner is a Sikh and does a lot for charity – helping to feed the homeless and raise funds for the local children’s hospital – and community is so important for us.
We love Family Action’s SENDIASS service. They host sessions where my grandson can interact with children who have the same struggles
That’s why we love Family Action’s SENDIASS service. They host sessions where my grandson can interact with children who have the same struggles and point us toward all the great provision in the local area that’s designed for us, opens up early for young people with additional needs or lets us in before the general public.
Life’s an adventure
I’ve got eight grandchildren in total, which sounds like it could get expensive, but I find you don’t have to have a lot of money to have a good time… When we see them we like to go to the local forest and have a little adventure. Eight sounds like a lot but I love having so many!
Because of my grandson’s additional needs, it can be tiring, as other kids don’t have to have things like twice-yearly reviews, constant hospital visits and targets they need to meet. But the rewards! Watching him grow up and reach those targets has been amazing.
Reaping the benefits
Caring for him has been such a rewarding way to spend my retirement …because I’ve retired, I’m able to reap the benefits
We never thought he’d walk or speak, and we never thought he’d go to a mainstream school, but he proved everyone wrong.
He’s such a laid back little boy, he loves to please and he’s happy with anything we do and anything we give him.
Caring for him has been such a rewarding way to spend my retirement and it feels like, because I’ve retired, I’m able to reap the benefits.
Families come in all shapes and sizes and can shape our lives unexpectedly. What matters most is what family means – love, support and working together.
At Family Action we’re there for all types of families, including Special Guardians, at every stage of their journey. If you need a listening ear, or want to discuss anything relating to family life, then call our FamilyLine service for information and support. If you need to discuss special guardianship you can call our PAC-UK advice line. Our SENDIASS services are also available for free and impartial information, advice and support.
What is a special guardian?
Special guardians are responsible for looking after children until they’re 18 in situations where they cannot live with their birth parents and where adoption wouldn’t be the right solution. It’s common for Special Guardians to be relatives or friends, although some might also be foster carers.
*Name changed at the request of the interviewee