Race Day: 10 October 2021

Stuart Black, 56, from Surrey, will be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 10th October, in aid of Family Rights Group, a charity that provides advice and support to parents and kinship carers concerning their rights when social workers or courts make decisions about their children’s welfare. Stuart will be running for this charity, as he and his partner, Inta, decided to become the permanent carers of their late friend’s three young children.

In 2017, Stuart and Inta faced a lifechanging decision when their close friend, also called Inta, sadly passed away. Stuart explains: “My partner met Inta ten years before she died, they both worked in the same hotel in Latvia and stayed in touch when they moved to the UK.”

The couple were looking after her three children, Gabby, aged 5 at the time, Kristians, 6, and Dan, 14, whilst she was in hospital, Stuart explains: “After their mum had been admitted to hospital unconscious, she died suddenly and unexpectedly whilst they were staying with us.”

“My partner and I sat in the garden, and agreed we needed to do what we could to make sure they were safe; if that meant taking them on, we were willing to do so. Inta, my partner, lost her mum when she was only three years old so knew what it felt like. We had mixed feelings of determination and trepidation to become their permanent carers.”

The children wanted to stay with Stuart and Inta; the pair were terrified that if the siblings were taken into care they would be separated. The couple chose to care for them permanently as kinship carers:

“We had a Family Group Conference, which is a process that brings wider family and friends together to make a plan for a child. Their maternal grandmother gave us 11 out of 10 as potential carers and the children were also in favour of the idea.”

There are more than 180,000 children across the UK raised by kinship carers like Stuart and Inta – relatives or friends who step in to raise children when they can’t remain at home. Like many kinship carers, the couple faced huge difficulties in getting support for their children.

The local authority was happy for them to be their guardians but refused to meet their responsibilities to support them to do so: “The 18-month process, which involved court hearings and running up thousands in debt to cover the legal fees, was stressful and unnecessarily confrontational. We were confident, however, that common sense would eventually prevail.”

Stuart continues: “In December 2018 we were finally recognised as their special guardians. We felt an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude that we could now have a ‘normal’ family life, which didn’t revolve around court dates, social worker and guardian visits, looked after child reviews and the rest!”

Considering the loss that the children have experienced, Stuart observes that they’ve coped remarkably well so far:

“The sudden loss of their mum was obviously difficult for them to deal with, but the fact they felt safe and were able to stay together, helped to ensure the trauma wasn’t exacerbated. We were also able to borrow the money to extend the house, so they all have their own room, which was completed two weeks before the first lockdown.”

 

The Family Rights Group provided invaluable support to Stuart and his family during this time; he is now a member of their Kinship Carers’ Panel, and a trustee of the charity:

“The Family Rights Group isn’t a talking shop; they make a difference every day to callers through their helpline and use their insights and experience to influence strategic and practical change with legislators, judiciary and social work professionals. It’s a privilege and rewarding to be able to use our experiences constructively to improve outcomes for children who can’t live with their parents.”

Stuart will be raising money for the charity by taking on the challenge of running in the Royal Parks Half Marathon in October, he comments:

“Apart from raising the profile of the Family Rights Group by completing the half marathon, I’m really looking forward to the run itself. Years ago, when I worked at the Cormwell Hospital, I used to run through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park with my colleagues, so I’ll be happy to experience that sense of nostalgia when running on those same paths that I once did.”

He continues, “Since I’m effectively starting training from scratch, I’d be happy with a time of 2hours 30minutes. Although I was a bit rusty at the start of my training, I’m getting there!”

To donate to Stuart’s cause, go to: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=StuartBlackFRG&pageUrl=1

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