Foster carers who are looking after babies and toddlers will not be surprised to hear that there is a prevailing view that this is an easy option. But this is not true. The challenges and pressures of this type of fostering are just different. The responsibilities are considerable and of a particular nature. Many who apply to foster want to foster a baby. But for any prospective foster carer, it’s important to recognise that the opportunity to care for a baby is not a frequent occurrence. This reality where very young children are concerned is born out by the statistics: government figures for the period ending 31st March 2018, show six per cent of all the children in care in England were less than a year old. The picture for children overall indicates thirteen per cent were between one and four years old; nineteen per cent between five and nine; thirty-nine per cent between ten to fifteen; twenty-three per cent sixteen or over.
Some babies do come into the carer system who are all alone. This is; as already mentioned a relatively rare thing. There is, however, a significant demand for carers to provide homes for a baby and its parent(s). This type of fostering used to be termed ‘mother and baby placement’. Today, it is referred to as ‘parent and child’ fostering. The reason for this is to reflect the fact that a baby may be accompanied into placement by one or both parents. And sometimes – more rarely – it will be the father. Sometimes arrangements are made for the placement before the child is born. In some instances, the child will be a toddler. It can be appreciated that this is a specialist area of fostering requiring certain skills of the foster carer. The role involves providing care for a teenager or an adult, along with a baby or very young child. Both ends of the fostering spectrum under one roof. This means that a foster carer is effectively playing a twin role. Importantly, the care must help the parent to acquire the skills, duties and responsibilities that with looking after a baby or toddler. The parent may have absolutely no idea what these are and what is involved – such as taking a baby for medical checks. There is a lot of necessary recording in daily logs. The foster carer is not looking after the baby, but looking to provide the support to enable the parent to care for their child with confidence. And that this is done consistently and reliably. This demands that foster carers possess shrewd observational skills. It is important to stress that foster carers will also be getting a lot of support from their supervising social worker. More than one person is involved in assessing the abilities of a young parent. But obviously the foster carer will be having a significant input as they are involved with monitoring the situation on a daily – and often nightly – basis.
The reason why fostering placements of this type are extremely finely balanced is the need for the infant to attach to their parent. This is because the early years of the infant’s life are quite critical to their personal development. They play a huge part in determining the kind of person they become – along with their life prospects. This can be understood when it is appreciated that in the first three years of life, they will develop language, emotional awareness and the ability to form relationships. In order for this to happen, a baby needs to experience levels of interaction with the parent which is consistent and constant. This attachment – or bonding process – lays the foundations for life. A foster carer; in supporting this process, is involved on the most fundamental level with the baby and its parent.
The combination of training and assessment a foster carer makes can have profound implications. This is because it measures the parent’s ability to care effectively for the baby. This will ultimately determine whether the child can remain with his or her birth parent or be placed into long-term foster care. The child might also go for adoption if it is judged the parent(s) are not going to be able to properly care for their child.
Fostering a baby means being fit and healthy.
Some foster carers will be responsible for just looking after a baby. In these circumstances, a foster carer may have to work closely with the birth parents. This means that contact will need to be arranged which, depending on the circumstances, could take place at or away from the carers home. All babies will have medical appointments as part of their natural checks. This means having your own transport is essential. If you are approved to foster babies, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the necessary supplies in your home if a baby is placed with you on an emergency basis. it’s also a good thing if a foster carer has a strong support network in place. All the usual qualities a foster parent needs will be needed. Especially resilience and determination. Caring for a baby will also mean caring for yourself. You will need to be fit, well-nourished and possess the levels of energy needed. If you are fostering a baby you can expect to have to get up at different times in the night. This means your own pattern of sleep will be disrupted – just as it is for all parents in this situation.
Nothing could be more vulnerable in the world than a baby all alone deprived of the love, care and attention it needs. Meeting their needs will require a lot of emotional commitment from a foster carer. It should be kept in mind that there is a high degree of probability a baby will move on. Even if a foster carer has only fostered a baby for a few short months, a close relationship will have been formed. This will certainly be the case if the infant has stayed for months – perhaps years. It can be very difficult for a foster carer and their family when a baby is moved on. This should always be born in mind by anyone choosing this type of fostering.
Rainbow: the opportunity to change your life in ways you never thought possible!
Rainbow welcome foster parents from all walks of life. Whether you’re married, single, female or male, renting or a homeowner, straight, gay, lesbian trans or bisexual – we’d love to meet you. To foster with Rainbow, you will need to be over 21 and have a spare bedroom. What’s most important is that you have the interest and motivation to do the most important and responsible job there probably is: to support, shape and guide the life of a vulnerable child so they can make a success of their future.
Rainbow has been rated ‘Outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted. This means you can begin your fostering career knowing you will be given all the training, support and advice to choose the kind of fostering you and your family do. You will always have access to your own dedicated social worker; benefit from regular short-breaks and know that w care there for you 24/7 all year.
Rainbow needs to find more foster families than ever before. We have made adaptions to our usual process because of the coronavirus outbreak. The entire process of applying to become a foster carer can be completed virtually. We can email you a leaflet explaining how – better still call us and we’ll explain how easy – so straightforward and we are here to guide you all the way.
We understand that the decision to foster is a huge one both for you and your family. Give us a call on 020 8427 3355 or use our National Line – 0330 311 2845 to discuss starting your fostering career right now.
Transfer to Rainbow.
We entirely understand that foster carers may wish to consider transferring – either from a local authority or agency. Rainbow Fostering is always interested to hear from experienced foster carers thinking of making a move. At the heart of what we do is a commitment to ensuring the best outcomes for our children. Doing that guarantees our foster carers have the best fostering experience – knowing they are making that kind of difference. If you share that simple – but challenging – goal, we would love to hear from you.
For the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus pandemic and how to stay safe, save lives and protect the NHS visit –
And for an interesting blog –
And our website frequently asked questions (FAQs) page has most of the usual questions people ask about fostering – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/