JENNI MURRAY: It's ageist to stop a grandma adopting a grandchild

JENNI MURRAY: It’s ageist to stop a grandma adopting a grandchild

  • Grandparents are often overlooked before children are placed in foster care
  • Just 15 per cent of looked after children in England are fostered by kinship carers
  • Jenni Murray has no doubt that ageism is a factor when placing a young child 

As yet, I don’t have grandchildren, so I can only imagine the grief I would feel if I found myself in a position where I might never see my granddaughter because her parents had been found to be incapable of caring for her.

Although local authorities are supposed to consider family and friends as the first port of call before placing children in foster care or children’s homes, it is not, new figures show, uncommon for grandparents to be overlooked. Overall, only 15 per cent of looked-after children in England are fostered by kinship carers.

In other countries, the figure is much higher — in New Zealand, it’s 62 per cent; the U.S. 31 per cent. So why is this country seemingly so reluctant to see a grandparent — who, after all, shares the child’s genetic make-up — as a suitable substitute parent?

New figures show only 15 per cent of looked-after children in England are fostered by kinship carers (file image)

We’ve seen in recent months how much a grandparent will watch over and care for a child. In the cases of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson, it was their grandparents and other close relatives who raised concerns of abuse before the two children were murdered. Why were their voices not heard?

I have no doubt that ageism is a factor. Do judges look on a grandmother in her 60s or 70s as someone who couldn’t possibly have the energy to endure the undoubted pressures of looking after a small child?

Maybe they think her pension won’t be enough to cover the costs. Maybe her house is small, run-down or doesn’t have a garden, whereas a paid foster carer may be seen as having a better lifestyle for raising a child.

One grandmother I read about, Marilyn, who fought a long battle for a judge to award legal guardianship of her grandchild to her and her husband, quoted some of the concerns from social workers.

They recorded worries about the fact that Marilyn was a vegetarian. They claimed she’d allowed the baby to play with the beads around her neck and said it was a possible choking hazard.

Social workers and judges must be made aware that no home is a perfect environment for a child. Risks lie around every corner. We all do our best to make sure everything is as safe as possible, but there are no guarantees, whether it’s a parent, a grandparent or foster carer in charge.

I’m sure foster carers endeavour to make the children in their care as safe, comfortable and content as they possibly can, but one vital element is missing. Love.

Jenni Murray (pictured) spent her early teenage years living with her grandparents because her father worked abroad and her mother spent as much time with him as possible 

Marilyn, now 70, said of her granddaughter: ‘I loved her from the word go — from the moment I saw the scan.’

She and her husband won their legal battle a decade ago and are now facing the teenage years. I doubt it’ll be easy, it rarely is, but love will make all the difference.

I have never looked after a child to which I hadn’t given birth, but I do know what it’s like to be cared for by one’s grandparents.

I spent the whole of my early teenage years living with my grandma and grandpa because my father worked abroad and my mother spent as much time with him as possible.

I could not have been happier. My grandma cooked like an angel and saw no point in being as strict as my mother was. Her only concerns were clean underwear, polished shoes, homework, health and cuddles. My grandparents loved me and showed it constantly, and I loved them.

It breaks my heart that thousands of children who need to be looked after with love are denied what I had because of misguided ideas about who’s fit to care.

‘Dowdy’ Kate earned a Globe

Jenni said she’s delighted Kate Winslet (pictured) won best TV actress for the drama series Mare Of Easttown

The Golden Globes were a bit of a damp squib this year, but I’m delighted Kate Winslet won best TV actress for the drama series Mare Of Easttown. Not many gorgeous performers would be prepared to appear plump and dowdy for the sake of their art. She did it brilliantly.

Happy New Year? Sadly not for me…

They say bad luck comes in threes. I’ll be grateful if that’s true because the three have already happened, spoiling my hopes of a happy New Year.

First, the car crash. I’m driving slowly in traffic on a main road when suddenly there’s the horrific sound of metal on metal on the passenger side of my Mini.

Luckily, the other driver has accepted responsibility — well, of course it was his fault: he pulled out from a parking spot into me!

Second, the leak. Water slowly pouring through the soil in my front garden and flooding the path. I reported it to my water company and an inspector came and promised the replacement of the pipe would be done as an emergency at no cost to me.

The water companies are evidently so concerned about saving water they don’t charge for such repairs. I’ll have to pay for all the water that’s been wasted, so I hope they come quick.

Third, the flaming toaster. The Dualit that’s served me for more than 30 years burst into flames. Toast ruined. Me terrified. So no toast till the new one arrives.

May 2022 please get better.

My hazard lights are flashing at the sight of this statue 

Jenni said the Yoxman nude (pictured) is just an ugly old bloke flashing his privates

I’m sorry, but I can’t call Suffolk’s Yoxford Man the East Anglian Angel of the North. Antony Gormley’s winged edifice by the A1 in Gateshead is dramatic, imposing and rather beautiful. The Yoxman nude is just an ugly old bloke flashing his privates. I certainly wouldn’t stop to gaze at him — don’t want to encourage anyone to think it’s a good look.

  • A telling tweet from the former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, who suffered terribly after catching the coronavirus and is still struggling to recover: ‘May 20, 2020 — Number 10 party. Damn. I missed it. I was in a coma. Just my luck!’

All hail the ‘pushy mums’ like Judy

Jenni Murray said Jude Murray (pictured) is right, of course — calling a woman ‘pushy’ is sexism

Why is an encouraging mother, keen for her children to do well, seen as ‘a nightmare pushy parent’ when the same qualities in a father would be described as ‘supportive’, asked Judy Murray in a recent interview. She is right, of course — calling a woman ‘pushy’ is sexism and I’m not surprised that Judy was hurt.

Her lads, Sir Andy and Jamie, did do all right in the end, though, didn’t they?

  • A record number of sales of Rolls-Royce cars last year. That’s 5,586 drivers who won’t be worrying about their fuel bills this year, then.

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