Am I Too Old to Become a Special Guardianship Carer?

The previous article, At What Age Can You Become a Special Guardianship Carer? looked at when the issues when someone seems too young to take on the responsibility of becoming a Special Guardian (SGO).

But what if you’re wondering if you’re too old to become a special guardian.

This is the dilemma facing grandparents when they find themselves in this situation.

Here’s the Background

I had been allocated to the case of a family who had never had any local authority involvement in their lives or their children’s lives.

Therefore, to suddenly find themselves like a pigeon amongst the cats was a real eye-opener for them.

By all accounts they had led a pretty normal life, they had worked hard, had two children who did well at school, and left home.

Their son became involved with a woman who was later found to be a heroin user, unknown to him at the start of the relationship, and she fell pregnant early on.

Paternity hadn’t been established during the pregnancy, so they only became aware of their grandson in the weeks following his birth when paternity tests established that their son was the father of the child.

The baby was born withdrawing and had to complete methadone treatment in the following weeks following birth, the long-term effects of this on the baby are often not known until later.

But it must have been agony for the baby going through the shakes and tremors with their body going rigid.  It’s a reminder of why social workers do what they do. Keeping each child safe is the only reason.

I met Mr. and Mrs. Normal (not their real names) who were in the mid 60’s by this stage.

He had worked all his life, they had a comfortable home, she had been a stay-at-home mother and cared for the family.

They were looking forward to retirement and spending time together. Maybe travelling, seeing the world, pottering around, and generally taking it easy after all the years of hard work.

They were in all respects a ‘normal’ family who never expected this drama to unfold in their lives.

To suddenly be faced with the dilemma of stopping all their plans to take care of a grandchild, they didn’t know they had until a few weeks ago, was a huge dilemma.

Let’s add in the statutory framework, the Court wanted a decision made within six weeks.

The Court wanted a full kinship assessment completed within six weeks.

This was because the plan was to move the baby from a mainstream fostering placement into their care sooner rather than later if they wanted to take care of the baby.

They spent the next weeks on an emotional rollercoaster.

The turmoil. The guilt. The anxiety.

Then came the anger.

Anger towards the woman who had carried their grandchild.

The woman had chosen to continue to use heroin throughout her pregnancy. And their son who was not stepping up to the task to face his responsibility.

But the dilemma for these grandparents was they really did not feel they could care for this baby.

Not that they didn’t want to, but they did not want to change their life plans.

They did not want to do the parenting thing all over again.

It is not easy to be a full-time parent in your 60s.

By the time the child will be 10, they will be 70. Will they have the energy to run around and keep up with him?

Will they have the energy that it takes to care for a child?

Our bodies physically are not made for caring for children on a full-time basis later in our life.

It is a hard decision, where the mind and body do internal battle about what to do for the best.

Both for the child and also the applicants.

It has to be the right decision for everyone.

Too Old Too Care – is written by Grandparents Association, (now Kinship) and talks about the issues facing grandparents coming forward to care for a baby.

Sometimes, just having a biological link is not enough.

Working with kinship families has always led me to wonder, what I would do when faced with a similar situation.

Each time, I am faced with these special guardianship assessments, it makes me reflect.

Whilst I would like to believe that I would never let a part of my family be adopted when I am fit and able to care for them, we simply cannot know what we would do when faced with the same reality.

You may wonder whether they were being too realistic by thinking that they couldn’t offer care until the child was 18 because at 18 they would be in their late 80’s.

By that stage, they may be needing care themselves let alone caring for a young person about to embark on life.

Many elderly grandparents are caring for their grandchildren, at similar life stages, it is an individual choice.

Some can manage and take on SGO no matter their life stage, and others know that what is being asked is simply too much for them at that stage of life.

Ultimately, it is their decision.

And no one should judge them for it, they need to do what is right for them and be realistic about what they can provide.

They deserve respect for knowing deep down, that they simply could not do this.

Are you ever too old to care?

Special Guardianship Info –  Giving SGO a Voice