Those who know the work of the Commission will have heard much about the plight of children in kinship care; How their carers (usually grandparents) often struggle with poverty, lack of financial support and services, difficult family situations and the psychological trauma suffered by the children in their care - and still manage to give these children the unremitting love and support that will give them the best chance possible in life.It is not so often that we have really positive news to report on this key area of the Commission's work; but last Friday's kinship care gala dinner at the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow was a night of pure celebration at the strength and passion of these incredible grannies (and grandads), and how they have organised their own support where the government has so utterly failed them.
The night was devised and brought to fruition by Sally Brisbane, a kinship care and chair of the West Glasgow Grandparents Group, one of the many self organised support groups in Scotland set up by kinship grannies to help each other through the many hardships they face. Sally knew from personal experience that one of the services most essential to kinship children is psychological support, to enable them to move past the traumas of their early childhood, face their immense challenges, and reach their potential. The Notre Dame centre provides this service to vulnerable children and has been deeply committed to kinship care kids over the years. In the face of political failure to provide this support, Sally put over a year of thought and planning into an event that would raise money to keep the centre open, and honor kinship carers in the process. Along the way her charisma and passion attracted the support of businessmen, politicians and banks who donated prizes and paid for aspects of the night. One of these was James Smith, a businessman and a foster carer himself, who was horrified at the abysmal treatment of kinship carers who do the same job as foster carers such as him but receive a fraction of the support or regocnition. He subsequently became a patron of the West Glasgow group, and co-organised much of the night with Sally.
The night itself was so special. Over 100 kinship carers, in gorgeous and glamorous frocks, walked proudly down a red carpet in honor of the undervalued and incredible role they hold in Scottish society. Two rippling flames at the entrance marked the burning love and passion in their hearts for the children in their care. The Poverty Truth Commission had a table in the beautifully decorated hall, and heard heartfelt speeches from MSP Bob Doris, kinship carer Tommy McFall, and the Commission's own Darren McGarvey, who spoke about the important role of his grandmother and the Notre Dame centre in his young life, and thanked them for giving him the chance to stand there as a symbol of hope for others today. Thanks was also given to the Commission for its work campaigning for the rights of kinship care children.
Incredible raffle prizes including a holiday in Turkey, a voucher for The Diamond Studios, and a day in a Ferrarri, were given out, and entertainment from dancers, magicians, singers and DJs rolled on into the night, as the kinship carers and their families and supporters smiled and danced. I didn't stop grinning the whole night through either. To see the glowing faces of these loving and passionate women, who struggle against so much, being truly recognised and celebrated for the work they do was very moving, and sadly so very rare. I am in awe of their resilience and feel so honored to know them and work alongside them with the Commission. Darren's story is a testament to the power of the unrelenting love they give, which can rescue children from the harsh realities of poverty, drugs, alcohol and violence they are born into, and turn them, against all odds, towards their inherent and beautiful potential to live happily, and even become the role models and change agents that society so desperately needs.
Thank you to Sally Brisbane, Jessie Harvey, Jean Forrester and all of the kinship carers in Glasgow and greater Scotland for their commitment and love. The world needs you.