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Trapped in an impossible situation...

(61 Posts)
Mamma66 Sun 21-Jul-19 06:26:58

I have posted about this before, so apologies for that, but we feel so trapped and can see no way out.

We have three grandchildren aged seven, five and almost three. Their parents very dysfunctional relationship broke down 18 months ago. Both are poor parents; each in their own way and until recently the children have been under Child Protection. The children live with their Mum and come to us every other weekend. It used to be 5pm Friday to 5pm Sunday, but we reduced this recently to 1pm Sunday.

We love the children dearly and told both parents a year or so ago that we would always put the children first even if this meant raising concerns with Social Services.

The children are lovely, love coming to us and really benefit from the stability and routine we give them. We love them so much but are shattered. We have to supervise contact with their father although this will end soon. Whilst he loves them in his own way the reality is that he isn’t prepared to actually parent. No matter how much we try to make him he doesn’t actually spend any time with them when they’re here. Last time he spent about three hours with them over the whole weekend which is more than usual.

The oldest child is really starting to clash with her Mother. She is a very bright little girl and whilst she has been fiercely loyal to her Mum I think she is beginning to recognise her shortcomings. She is starting to say regularly that she doesn’t want to live with Mum and actually means it.

We have always been petrified of them going into Care, mainly because we feared they would be split up and they love each other dearly. I can’t imagine there are too many foster parents who would be in a position to take on three small children together. Social Services are not currently involved but there is a risk they’re heading that way again.

I know this sounds selfish but we are absolutely shattered. We thought that we would be supporting our Stepson for a few months but he has moved away and comes to ours to see the children. He has never spoken to us about the future but obviously intends this situation will continue for the foreseeable future. He will be coming into a lot of money next year and will probably be able to buy a house, but I can’t see much else changing. When it comes down to it he doesn’t really want to put the effort in with parenting.

We feel so trapped. We love the kids dearly but are constantly shattered. We can’t walk away as they need the stability we provide. I don’t think there is a solution we can live with, I just don’t know what to do. My husband feels the same way.

BlueBelle Sun 21-Jul-19 06:54:44

First you sound wonderful grandparents and I totally understand how tiring it all is you are doing a brilliant job
I think there are often a chunk of years when people who are caring and kind and not able to just ‘walk away’ are totally trapped in a ‘tired’ period If often happens with elderly parents, plus small grandchild care, plus work, it seems you are just living to juggle very tiring balls and this is where you are at the moment
You have them every other weekend could you enlist some help that weekend ? Any other siblings, aunts, uncles etc Don’t be afraid to ask, can you split your time so husband takes them out for an hour to give you a breather Do they play well together and do you have a garden don’t be afraid to let them be alone obviously keeping an eye on things I think sometimes we over think play and feel the caregiver has got to be with them all the time whereas kids love to play alone having a little adventure with you keeping your eyes open of course A sheet dropped over a couple of chairs can keep kids quite for ages
Make sure you do something nice on the weekend you have off
When your stepson comes for his contact (is that a different time or during the ‘every other weekend’ ) as you say supervise is ending ask him to take them out to the play park or a walk or macDs (why not once in a while) unless of course you believe them to be unsafe with him that way he will have to engage whilst because when you are there, he won’t
You don’t say how old you are or if you are still working but the children will grow up very quickly (it doesn’t seem it at the moment)
I hope you can manage to enlist some help and keep these three children safely together

Iam64 Sun 21-Jul-19 07:43:24

It's little consolation but you are not alone in being the grandparents who provide stability and love for grandchildren about whom they worry. Your commitment is a large one and no wonder you're feeling tired and anxious about what the future holds.

The fact your seven year old granddaughter is beginning to say she doesn't want to live with her mum is a red flag. You say they recently came off the CP register. We all know that the criteria for what constitutes statutory or even regular long term support for families has become consistently higher as services have been cut.

Do you believe the 7 year old is in effect becoming a carer to her mother and younger siblings? There are schemes in most areas these days to support 'young carers'. That won't take the pressure off your weekends but it may support the children. If things are deteriorating, is it time for you to contact the s.w. team again?
Sorry no easy solutions here. You could contact Bernardos and ask to sit and talk the situation through with one of their qualified staff. The local NSPCC team may offer a similar talk it through service. Be aware though, that the NSPCC may simply make a referral to the s.w. team about any concerns your raise, rather than supporting you. There is still a belief around that the NSPCC investigate and support families about whom concerns are raised. They don't. They simply write it up and email it to the local sw team. However, if you aren't making a referral and make clear you simply want to talk the situation through to consider options, they should make an office appointment for you to do that.

MovingOn2018 Mon 22-Jul-19 07:15:05

Social Services are not currently involved but there is a risk they’re heading that way again.

What's the risk?

We can’t walk away as they need the stability we provide.

What stability do you provide that their mother doesn't?

We love the children dearly and told both parents a year or so ago that we would always put the children first even if this meant raising concerns with Social Services.

Have you ever raised any concerns with social services? If so, what was the nature of the raised concern(s)?

She is starting to say regularly that she doesn’t want to live with Mum and actually means it.

I mean if her mother is now a single struggling mother, she probably doesn't have the time to do all the fun stuff you get to do with her kids on the weekends. I'm sure you've asked why she would say thus for you mention at you think see started to see her mothers "shortcomings". And what shortcomings are these according to you?

aggie Mon 22-Jul-19 07:20:48

With parents as disconnected as you report I can't see how having them for alternate weekends is enough to provide stability . I hope you don't talk to them about their Mum as you do here and I think their Dad needs a severe talking to

BradfordLass72 Mon 22-Jul-19 08:17:01

Have you considered asking the children's mother to do a parenting course like Incredible Years? I was a 'volunteer grandma' on one for a while (it was free for participants) and the parents had a lot of fun, it's not judgemental in any way and there is separate care for pre-schoolers (at my branch anyway).

Please read about it below then ask your local CAB who runs it in your area. There may also be other parenting courses too.

To ease your burden, ask about Barnardos who used to have, and maybe still do, in-home help for people caring for children and who are finding it a strain.

Your eldest gc is just becoming a person in her own right and aware of Mum's shortcomings. She's probably genuinely concerned about her mum but feels helpless to do anything about it.
Have you spoken to her about the fact that Mum might need a little help as she gets so tired and worried (age-appropriate phrases smile) and can't always think straight?
I have found it is best to be honest, rather than hedge or think children cannot understand.

I'm afraid I don't have much faith in Social Services; they are so stretched and have a Prioritising Scheme, whereby the worse-case (violence and sexual abuse) come at the top, and happy children with loving grandparents are way down the list.

The other thing is - your stepson, whe he comes into his fortune smile may be able to help with a day-nanny service to give you a break.
Looking after 3 is tiring and he may be prepared to finance this, one day a week or more. There are many agencies who send out people to help, or have sole care.
Depending on your circumstances, you may also get some sort of benefit towards this.

You are not in any way selfish, quite the contrary but clearly you are almost at the end of your tether. So I hope some of these ideas help.

tickingbird Mon 22-Jul-19 09:26:02

Movingon2018 I don’t find your post helpful to the OP. She doesn’t need interrogating. Be helpful or move on.

optimist Mon 22-Jul-19 09:28:29

Oh this is familiar. I had a similar situation but with only one of my grandchildren, a boy whose parents separated when he was 4 and he lived with me until he was 11, I was still working. It was hard but I felt that I "held" him until at least one of his parents (my DIL) was able to offer him a home. She was never really a "parent" and often went abroad (for work) leaving him alone, but I lived close and would have stepped in for emergencies, thankfully there were none. He brought himself up virtually. He is now 17. Independent. Delightful. A "normal" teenager. Doing A levels and heading for university. I rarely see him now but felt I did the right thing. He refuses to see his father (my son) but I know he is fond of me and hope he would come to me if he needed support. Its exhausting but essential. My advice is to hang on in there. It is so worthwhile.

GrandmaJan Mon 22-Jul-19 09:32:36

You say the children “have been under Child Protection” so I presume they are still under the category “Children in Need” where Social Care (was previously known as Social Services) will still have some input although probably limited. The last place children are looked after is with a foster carer, the Children Act is very clear that children should be placed within the family unless that’s not in their best interests. And where possible children should be kept together. In my area NSPCC are actively involved with families so it could be the case in your area. Not all branches write an Email to Social Care and expect them to deal with it. Obviously SC are closely involved but NSPCC do the work. I would speak to the family’s key worker and explain exactly how you feel. You may be surprised and they could offer help.

WOODMOUSE49 Mon 22-Jul-19 09:33:29

I have two friends who both foster children. Both currently have two children from the same family. One friend has fostered the two brothers (5 and 7) now for over a year. They have provided great stability for the boys, who have changed a lot and now able to mix well with their peers at school. My other friend fosters a brother and sister (twins) and again they are really benefitting from being with such a caring family. Please don't think it's a risk with Social Services. You need to think of yourselves too.

GoldenAge Mon 22-Jul-19 09:38:02

Agree completely with tickingbird - the situation is hard enough without this kind of response - in wondering whether there are children’s charities that might help maybe by allocating a a Saturday visitor who can come and take the children out to the park of play games with them for a couple of hours to provide a little respite for you - you are providing the stability for these young children and it seems they need you every weekend - they would really miss the contact - so far you have kept them together as a unit - that is unlikely to continue if they are thrown back on mum’s resources so why not ask social services for help for yourselves to continue to look after them over the weekends ?

jaylucy Mon 22-Jul-19 09:43:55

I think that a meeting needs to be arranged with Social Services with you, your husband and both parents. You don't say what the mother isn't doing to not be engaged with the children or the father. I'd guess that when he is with you, if you are playing with the children etc , he doesn't need to bother!
Parenting for some is not innate, it has to be learned and with 3 children under 10 as a single parent, it can be overwhelming and maybe if she has little contact with her own parents, she may not know how to be one!
You are at your wits end, so now is the time for the mum in particular to be given some support and shown how she can be a parent and it wouldn't hurt for your step son to go to ! He may well feel detached from the children as he sees them so little so should be encouraged to spend time with them on his own - if he is at your house, maybe leave him on his own in your back garden or you both take them all to a park, your and your husband sit back and watch while he gets a chance to play with them on his own

Jillybird Mon 22-Jul-19 10:00:48

Mama66 you are wonderfull! I'm a grandma to 3 but also was a primary school teacher so I can tell you that the little ones, delightful as they are right now, are at the most exhausting stage of their lives. (Actually I am sure you know that but thought worth reiterating to give you hope for the future). Can you carry on a little longer? The 7yr old will be 10 before you know it, and that's such a lovely age. Tis true, the 3yr old will be 6, which is not my favourite age for little people (the boys' favourite trick is to see how high up the wall they can pee, for example!). On another note, I'm wondering if you are being strict enough? I understand you want to compensate for the poor parenting, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Are you setting enough strict boundaries to give yourselves some peace and quiet? Children like boundaries - it's something many parents fail to understand - boundaries make children feel secure and that's one of the most important feelings; they need to feel safe. Heaven knows what I'd do in your shoes, but I'm totally full of admiration for what you are doing. Can you employ a cleaner, for instance, who could change the children's bed sheets, etc. and take a job off your shoulders? Just carve out some time for yourselves so that you can look forward to them coming and not dread it. Wish I knew you, you must be a wonderful lady. X

polnan Mon 22-Jul-19 10:00:56

well I would ask questions of you Mamma 66...
surely you are asking for comments/advice? perhaps I have it wrong..
I can`t see the ages of you and hubby, and your circumstances
my first thought was that my gks.. I would have them with me,, but then, that is not always the best thing for all people concerned.

dizzygran Mon 22-Jul-19 10:04:10

whilst there is a lot of pressure on you, you have to look at whether the care the children are getting is good enough. At the current time, it does not look as though they would meet the criteria to go on he Child Protection Register or go into care. There might be groups or clubs - or volunteers who could give support. Do you have any other family who could help. Unfortunately the pattern being shown by SIL - sitting back and letting you cope - is all too common. Get him to take the kids to the park and make sure he helps at meal times. It is a lot for you but I cannot see a way out until they are older. If SIL is coming into money suggest he put some in trust for the children to help with their education - it doesn't sound as though he will buy a house for them all to live together...

Coconut Mon 22-Jul-19 10:36:15

Poor kids having parents like these .... but lucky, lucky kids to have grandparents like you 2. Plan ahead and do activities where you can to a degree just sit back and watch and let the kids wear themselves out. Have a structured day giving each of you an hour off in turn. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, picnics, walks in the park, woods etc you really are wonderful people and I hope everything works out well for you all 💐

goodgran Mon 22-Jul-19 10:57:19

I know I would feel like you mama66. There's no easy answer but I think help is needed for you both from [email protected]

Blossomsmum Mon 22-Jul-19 10:59:35

I do sympathise with you as we are in a similar situation as sadly our foster daughter has cancer and there is no one else to care for her 3 children who we regard as grandchildren and while I love them to bits I also resent having to care for three children at the age of 67 when I have finally retired and had plans to spend the time with my oh

georgia101 Mon 22-Jul-19 10:59:46

Mamma66, we have been in exactly the same position as you so I completely understand the feelings of responsibility you have to look after your GCs emotional and physical welfare. I understand the exhaustion too. We were scared to involve SS but they were involved at one point and they said they were happy for the children to live with us is we could manage, and aren't in the habit of removing children from homes if it can be avoided. We were still very afraid it could happen though. Like your GC, ours get on so well together we didn't want them split up. Like yours, they said they didn't want to live with one parent. All I can offer you is that if you can struggle on, like others have said, the children do get easier to look after as they get older. In the meantime, talk to relatives/friends to see if they can look after the children for even a couple of hours when they're with you. I think you need to talk to the children's parents to see about them paying for some help for you, so that you can continue to support them all. You don't have to be unkind, just honest about your needs being met, not just theirs. Your stepson should certainly be told that this will be an expectation when he gets his inheritance. They are his children and his responsibility. If SS eventually do get involved, make sure you let them know that you still want to be involved in the children's futures, and having them for weekends etc. I'm sure the children's teacher's will be happy to support you in this area too, as they will be aware how much they love you and indeed what their personal circumstances are. Children tell their teachers a lot! I really feel for you, and wish you all the best in getting the help you need. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Sometimes the fear is worse than the reality.

starbird Mon 22-Jul-19 11:08:26

Do the other grandparents help at all?

I think you have to be honest and talk to the social workers. If you are struggling now will you be able to carry on until they are grown up? In this day and age children need strong parenting due to the dangers in the world - drugs, grooming etc. It might be better if a permanent foster home could be found, even if they are separated. You could still have then, maybe just for a day.
Meanwhile have you asked the 7 year old why she doesn’t want to live at home? Could there be a man friend in the picture?
While with you, do you get the children to help with age related chores? Clearing the table, washing up, a bit of fun cooking? Making their beds? I know they are a bit young for this but the older girl can help - although if she is made to do this at home it might be why she wants to leave!
I’m sorry there is no easy answer. It must be hard to love them but feel unable to give what is neeeded.

Tigertooth Mon 22-Jul-19 11:18:45

Hi op
Tricky situation - how are things financially? There are lots of stage/threaten clubs that the older two could attend pretty much all day on a Saturday that are really good fun.
Things will get easier, it’s not forever, they are young.
Are there any granny’s groups near you? A friend of mine (in Hampshire) has full guardianship of her granddaughter, she joined a granny’s club - she was amazed at how many grandparents have full or shared guardianship of grandchildren.
Maybe have a ‘schedule’ to calm things?
Drawing or play doh hour
Reading hour
Movie time
Tech time
Swimming/ park/ walk time
Bake a cake hour
A bit like a school/ nursery does - break the day into segments of activity rather than all day play and chaos.
It also might be worth looking into some mindfulness techniques that you do with the older two.
This time will pass.

MissAdventure Mon 22-Jul-19 11:22:26

Have you thought of becoming kinship carers?
You would be full time foster parents to the children, but social services can (at their discretion, of course!) help, by paying as if you you were fostering non family children, and having quite a lot of input in ensuring they have what they need.

This can't go ahead without mediation with the parents, which may give them a wake up call.
Really, the pair of them ought to be ashamed of themselves for leaving you in such a situation. (I know that doesn't help but I had to say it!)

Diane227 Mon 22-Jul-19 11:38:02

Social services will only become involved if there is a need. Any involvement begins with a referral or re referral in your case. There is no child protection register now. Children become subject to child protection Plans.
You can access child protection procedures by going into your local authority website .
If a child has already been involved with SS then they will have been subject to an assessment.
I would talk to social services to find out if there are any resources to assist you and be honest about how you are struggling. It will be better to do this now before it reaches a crisis situation. If the children remaining at home depends on your beging able to offer this ongoing level of support then it sounds like further intervention from SS will be required and in the longer term its unlikely you will be able to prevent this.
Think about the ongoing needs of the children and think of what a great support you have been this far. You have done your best by yhe sound of it.

Doris19 Mon 22-Jul-19 12:02:32

I'm really annoyed that Prince George is wearing an England shirt. He is heir to the throne of the 🇬🇧 UK This is playing right in to the Nationalist hands if the royals are seen to favour one part of the UK over another Same goes for all sports including rugby I know it's only a football shirt but I really feel they should not favouring one part of our country over another.

icanhandthemback Mon 22-Jul-19 12:14:24

I really appreciate how difficult it is for you as a Nan who seems to be needed to pick up the pieces when parenthood doesn't go as planned. I can only say that you need to make sure you don't undermine Mum's efforts at being a parent when your 7 year old Grandaughter doesn't want to go home unless there are serious issues involved. 7 year olds can be pre-hormonal these days and starting to have mood swings, heightened feelings, etc. She has probably 'heard' a lot of criticism of her parents over the years and she needs a place to vent but also a way of re-aligning her loving feelings towards them. I do know that Social Services can do that with her to help her understand her feelings of anger, love, etc. They are doing that with my 7 year old grandaughter who has had to be a young carer and there is no talk of her going into care.
I suspect that * MovingOn2018 * was trying to get more info in order to give more structured advice as you wouldn't want to advise someone to leave things as they are if the children were in serious danger. It may also be that due to her exhaustion, Mamma66 may be feeling overly critical/frustrated/worried so that taking a tiny step back may be appropriate.