Kinship Carer Research
If you are like most people the term 'kinship carer' will be unfamiliar to you. However, it is a term which is becoming increasingly well recognised as more and more families (and sometimes friends) are taking responsibility to care for children who can no longer live with their birth parents.
Whilst we are all aware that grandparents frequently help out with baby-sitting and even looking after children while parents work, kinship carers are permanent parental figures. Reasons why are varied, but include growing drug misuse, mental health issues, bereavement, family breakdown and a growing prison population.
Many kinship carers have parented before; however, parenting a child who has experienced early trauma requires a sensitive approach beyond the instinctive responses of a more traditional parent. A local support group of kinship carers approached the Centre asking for help determining what specific kinship parenting training requirements the group had. This was the start of an on-going relationship which so far has researched not only the needs of the kinship carers but also the views of the kinship children and the more general appreciation of the kinship support group.
In November the Centre and the charity Kinship Carers UK held an awareness raising event at the Hive, which was attended by the local MP, councillors, representatives from the legal profession, social services and education, as well as many kinship carers themselves. We continue to work with the charity to inform government policy to ensure that these families are able to access the support that they need.
Student Academic Representatives (StARs)
Student Academic Representatives (StARs) are students elected each year by their peers to act as their collective voice in respect of anything that relates to their course. Students can feel confident that not only are their voices heard but that they are recognised as essential to ensuring that courses are relevant, dynamic and continually developing and improving.
In The Centre for Children and Families, as in others around the University, StARs work closely with one another and with the StAR Coordinator, a member of the University teaching staff and their StAR Representative at Institute Level, to inform planning and management of each course in the Centre.
StARS receive training from the Student Union at the beginning of each academic year. They are active at every level of the University making contributions to the running of Course Management Committees, Student Forums and within Institutes.
Amber Chilton, a final year student who has been a StAR and is currently Student Representative as Institute level, believes that the StAR system works effectively by enabling students to work as partners with the University to improve the student experience:
“The role of the StAR is to listen closely to what students tell us and to ensure that their voices are heard. The role is really rewarding. It builds confidence and offers valuable opportunities to develop personally and professionally.”
StARS are volunteers. Their work is appreciated and recognised by the University and time spent working as a StAR contributes towards the University Worcester Award which evidences employability skills and experience. The Student Union also operates a StAR accreditation scheme. More information about StARS is available at: http://www.worcsu.com/yourvoice/stars/