Fostering - Parent and Child Fostering

Could you be a Parent and Child foster carer?

Parent and Child fostering allows you to make a real difference to parents and their children and keep families together.

We are looking for people across Cumbria to care for both a parent and their child together. A vulnerable parent stays with a foster carer at a time when they need extra support and would otherwise be separated from their baby. This usually means opening your home to support a young mum and her new baby, for around 6 months. 

More and more, Parent and Child care is being sought for parents at risk of having children removed from their care. This may be because the young parent has not experienced positive parenting themselves, so has not learnt how to parent; it may be that the parent has additional needs that mean they need extra support. Or it could be that the parent has previously had a child removed from their care, and now their circumstances have changed, so it could be possible for their new baby to remain in their care for example.

By caring for a parent and their child, the aim is that you will use skills you have acquired as a parent or carer yourself, to model positive parenting and give the family the best possible chances of staying together and flourishing.

You'll help to model skills such as feeding, bathing and safe sleep. You'll empower the parent to make positive life choices, plans for the future and develop healthy routines. You'll provide support when they are overwhelmed, and get them back on the right track if they need it. You'll help them to understand developmental milestones and the baby's needs.

This really is an incredible opportunity for anyone with an interest in child development, and could be particularly interesting for people who are (or have been) midwives, teachers, youth workers, child care workers, social workers or care assistants.

You'll receive exceptional training, support and a weekly allowance of £700. 

Contact us today to find out more:

Call 0303 333 1216

Register your interest

Cumbria County Council foster carer Tracy, who lives in Allerdale, offers specialist Parent and Child foster placements;  where a parent (often a mother and their baby) comes to stay at a time when they need extra support.

Tracy said: "I have fostered for 10 years and have been doing Parent and Child placements for around 6 years. I am a single mum myself and have been on my own with my son since he was 3. So I know how difficult it can be for families and that sometimes they need extra support. Because of my own experience I wanted to do something to help.

"However, when I first started fostering I offered respite care and did short term placements as my own son was still a teenager and living at home with me then. Perhaps because of this I found I often ended up fostering boys and I reached a point where I really wanted to work with girls and to help them. My heart just went out to young women who wanted to keep their children and I wanted to do something to help them.

"It's been completely different to mainstream fostering and all the parent and child placements have been different - some of the mums were just 17 while the older ones were in their 20s or even early 30s.  It's very different to what I first expected because I am work more with the parent than the baby - helping mum to keep the baby safe and with her own issues too. 

"Often the mums I care for have social care issues with their own families so they haven't acquired parenting skills from their own parents. They may have experienced neglect, abuse or grooming and it is my role to help with those issues so that they can begin to bond with their own baby.

"It is important to always remember that mum is the primary carer and my job is to help her form a bond and attachment with the baby. I offer the support, nurturing and encouragement to the mums, which they often haven't had from their own mum.

"I am particularly in awe of older mums who come into parent and child placements to escape domestic abuse or break away from addiction because they want so desperately to keep their baby. They want to change the direction of their life and I respect them so much for doing that. 

"This type of fostering can be really rewarding. You get a great sense of achievement when it works and mum moves into a home of her own with the baby - it is lovely to see and you know they have worked incredibly hard to get there. There is usually a support package still place during this transition period and I would still be around to support from a distance too. 

"One of my mums and her baby moved out in January and I continued to support her until the end of February.  I still talk to a number of families I've helped and I receive regular photos and sometimes videos of the children. They do remember me and are grateful for what I've done to enable them to keep their child.

"But this type of fostering is not without challenges and I think one of the most important things to be aware of is that you do have to stand back because the baby isn't yours and it is mum who needs to bond with the baby. These are high pressured placements for a parent and you need to have the ability to remain calm, impassive and to be really well organised as the mums tend to rely on you to keep track of all their appointments and commitments. 

"The main qualities you need are to be kind, understanding and able to look at the bigger picture for these girls who are coming into a stranger's home with their tiny newborn baby.

"You can't go into this kind of work without having a caring and nurturing nature - the mums often need a hug or arm around their shoulder. But you cannot get too familiar either; I have learnt from experience always to have a chat to explain my role at the start of a placement. I explain to them that this is my job and that a line has to be drawn because at the end of the day my job is to keep baby safe and often these are high risk placements. 

"The placements are all consuming and you need to be aware of what's going on 24/7 - even overnight. It is intense and anyone thinking of this type of fostering needs to consider that. They need to be able to share their space for the length of the contract with mum - which could be 6 months or longer. 

"You are very much part of a team and work closely with four or five different people but you also work 90 per cent of the time on your own and need to be able to make decisions quickly and confidently.

"I enjoy all the placements as you get a great sense of satisfaction from knowing you have done everything possible to keep baby safe while giving mum the opportunity to prove her parenting abilities. Also working with these young women you are helping to break the cycle and give them a better opportunity in life. It is not only taking them out of a situation, it is breaking the cycle for their child and future generations."

Tracy


Our experienced Parent and Child foster carers, Alex and Ian, from west Cumbria answer our questions about their challenging specialist role.


How did you get in to Parent and Child fostering?

As with many of our placements you get a phone call with a bit of background and the 'ask', you are told a bit about their needs and the support that might be needed and can consider if it fits with your current circumstances. We had such a call as we were on the 'open' list to receive children thought yes, we could do that. We spoke to the social worker for the baby in this case and got more detail about the situation. Anytime between an hour and a few weeks later the young people turn up!

What have been the most memorable / rewarding parts of the role?

Previously a baby that lived here in a parent and child placement went on to live permanently with the other parent and came back to visit us for some years after. Knowing that we gave them a good start and helped build the foundations for that child was very rewarding. 

What advice would you give to either existing foster carers or members of the public who are considering it?

It can be very rewarding but it can be very challenging too, you tread a fine line between supporting the parent and modelling good parenting, while not taking over, doing enough to show how it can be done but not taking over so that the parent gets a chance to develop and practice skills. Sometimes having to step in and take over to make sure that the baby's needs are met and is kept safe. You are a safety net around the whole situation. Sometimes you have to tell the hard truths to the parent about their interactions, sometimes you have to let things go even though you know they could be better, the care provided is good enough. 

What skills do you think you need to be a successful parent and child carer?

Patience - more than the average amount of it! Supportive from the side lines, objective with a calm reassuring manner. 

Of course each parent's circumstances are different, but what are some of the needs parents have had?

We had a situation where the parent had significant learning difficulties, another where the parent came from a dysfunctional family background where there were not good examples of parenting that they could follow. We have fostered where the parent has been in foster care themselves. Another parent was escaping domestic violence and needing support to establish themselves in the local area and community.  The needs have varied from support to put the baby's needs first before a love of soap operas which could easily consume the evening for the parent, needing support to alter the routine as the baby grows and develops, guidance with playing and interacting and laying down the foundations of development. Some of the young parents have needed more personal support regarding their own relationships, bridging to adulthood, budgeting and skills for having their own house in the future. 

Can you give us a bit of a 'day in the life of a parent and child carer' scenario? What are the day-to day-tasks and how do you contribute to the work the social worker is undertaking (parenting assessments etc).

These are some of the things that might happen during a 24-hour period:

  • Get up during the night to support the parent who is struggling to settle the baby and keep calm themselves. Regulate the emotions of the parent so that they can then in turn regulate the child
  • Support maintaining routine for the baby by prompting at key times 
  • Encourage parent to make the most of 'free' /nap time by either resting themselves or doing a task such as putting their washing on, washing bottles etc
  • Transport to contact and/or parenting assessment sessions
  • Encourage parent to think about the combination of food they are providing for baby over the day/week so as to have a range of tastes/food/textures
  • Support for a meeting with Health Visitor or other professional such as solicitor or social worker
  • Modelling reading, singing, sensory activities with baby and parent
  • Discussing the changing needs of the baby as they develop
  • Keep factual notes of the day to day happenings, this is helpful to see progress and change over time
  • Accept calls from team completing parenting assessment to answer questions about our observations of interactions, routine etc
  • Speak to child's social worker if there are any issues to discuss or things to iron out about roles and responsibilities
  • Sometimes the parent has a social worker too so liaison if needed with them
  • Catch up supervision session with fostering social worker

How are you supported by the Fostering Team and other professionals?

We have a fostering social worker who provides support and supervision virtually and in person as with regular fostering. There are regular team meetings to discuss progress and set goals. 

In terms of the wider team you are always involved with the health visitor for the baby who has done the standard visits but is also available for advice anytime. She is able to organise more specific support around play/weaning/sleep if needed.

Ian and Alex Nancollis