Anyone who wants to find out about the concept of kinship care and what it means could learn a lot from Khanyisela Moyo.
Khanyisela, along with her mother Jennifer, is the guardian of her niece Kelly, 10, and nephew Siyabonga, 14 following the death of their mother Ntando, Khanyisela’s sister, in 2012.
The children are full of life and clearly very happy in their Ardgrange home. Research has shown numerous times that children perform better in the care of their own family members in the absence of their parents.
For Khanyisela, who is originally from Zimbabwe, the thought of her sister’s children being taken into care was never a consideration.
“People look at what we’ve done as something so wonderful but in Zimbabwe, this is what you’re supposed to do. Even when my sister was alive we were there, helping look after the children. We were all the same family and that’s just what you do. That’s what we are doing now, after her death,” she says.
It was in her position as a lecturer at the University of Ulster that Khanyisela first came into contact with Jacqueline Williamson, the woman now synonomous with fighting for the rights of family members caring for children when their parents are no longer able to do so.
“I was teaching one of the modules in Womens’ rights and minority rights and the topic of children came up,” explains Khanyisela. “We always worked in small groups and the people in the group were giving examples of children in certain settings. Jacqueline was talking to the group about kinship care and I told her I could relate to what she was talking about because I was looking after my niece and nephew.
“Jacqueline got really interested and met me after the class. At that time, when she was talking to me we were in a custody battle with the childrens’ father. She was great. She knew exactly what we could do and her advice really helped. As someone who has a PHD in law, people might think that I would have known exactly what to do, but I didn’t. So when it comes to issues like custody and kinship care, I imagine it must be very difficult for most people who don’t have a background in law.”
For Khanyisela and her mother Jennifer, the priority was giving Ntando’s children the sense of security which they needed following the death of their mother. Khanyisela also has a daughter, Lindokuhle so it was a busy and challenging time for the family.
“It was difficult for the children, and they didn’t even get the chance to grieve because of the custody battle,” says Khanyisela. Ntando had been studying mental health at the North West Regional College and had been working in Derry although she had moved to England with her children some months before her death with the promise of a better job. It was while in England, that Ntando died, leaving her two children without a mother.
Siyabonga and Kelly had always enjoyed a close relationship with their aunt and grandmother and Khanyisela and Jennifer instantly decided to take over the care of the children.
Adapting to the new life without Ntando was a challenge for the whole family, but one which grandmother Jennifer says was made easier by the Kinship Care organisation.
“We were able to see that there were other people who were facing the same difficulties as us.”
Khanyisela says the bureacracy around the children was also an issue which was made easier by Kinship Care.
“There are lots of things to think about, for example, applying for passports and getting the children registered medically. These are questions which many people in situations of kinship care face and we’re so glad we had the organisation here to help. I’d encourage anyone who is looking after children within their own family to get in touch with Kinship Care here in Derry.”
Contact Kinship Care on Carlisle Road on 02871 373731