Parent and child foster care: the issues explained – part 1

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Parent and child foster care: the issues explained – part 1

Parent and child foster care provision

Parent and child foster carers

Foster carers always have a choice. And for a considerable period of time the need for parent and child foster care placements has been growing rapidly. So there is a need to recruit more people into what is a specialist area of fostering. This means it is important to build as much understanding of this type of care. There is a range of literature available covering research into parent and child fostering. And to begin this series, it is worth establishing some context by looking a relatively short way back to 2007 at valuable work assessing parent and child foster care in a study by Tim Martin and Susan Davies – ‘An evaluation of parent and baby placements in West Sussex’. For clarity, we shall refer to such arrangements as ‘Parent and Child’ foster placements. This study is valuable in identifying the main problems and factors that still commonly apply to the circumstances relating to parent and child foster placements.  

Parent and child foster placements – a look back.

The aim of the original study was to evaluate both the quality and the outcomes of parent and child placements commissioned by West Sussex local authority. The key findings indicated even back then the increased level of difficulty in making placements of this type and reliance on independent agencies: sixty-eight per cent of the cases reported by social workers found there to be no in-house placement available; in eighty-six per cent of such cases, social workers considered one or more foster agency places. The importance of fostering agencies in meeting the demand for parent and child foster placements was indicated by the fact thirty-four out of thirty-nine were made with agencies – twenty-nine with fostering agencies and five with residential agencies. The remaining parent and child foster placements were with in-house carers. 

The parents and children that needed fostering were female and likely to be in their late teens when the placements commenced. In the study, they were of a white British ethnic background. And their babies were likely to be male and between the ages of one and two months when placed with their parent. They were of a white British ethnic background and on the Child Protection Register – CPP. Certain issues and concerns about young parents were highlighted. In all the cases concerns existed regarding the parents’ parenting abilities. Most particularly, their knowledge of childcare (100%); their emotional abilities (100%); and their intellectual abilities/learning difficulties (74%). The most significant issues that were associated with the mothers involved: child protection (84%); their own experience of growing up (84%) a lack of support networks (74%); their living conditions/accommodation (58%) and mental health issues (58%). And the most significant issues that were linked with the were child protection (67%); misuse of alcohol (435); the fathers own experiences of being raised (43%) and mental health issues (40%).

The main aims and objectives of parent and child foster care placements.

When this study was conducted there had already been over a number of years a general rise in the numbers of children coming into care. With a parent and child, foster care placement very different criteria apply. The majority of these placements had the goal of developing and supporting parent’s parenting skills. In twenty of the cases evaluated this was reported as being one of the principal objectives. And this stated aim was recorded by one social worker as – 

“nurturing of the baby within an environment which would provide support and facilitate the  development of the mother’s parenting abilities, skills and knowledge.”

In some of the cases, the assessment was tied to developing and supporting parenting skills, whilst for others, it was the main aim. Other aims and objectives were case-specific – or formed part of supporting parenting and assessments – such as giving babies protection: an example being from one case –

“To assess the mother’s ability to consistently and safely care for the baby and to protect him/her from physical harm. To offer the mother parenting advice and support. the study asked social workers what the main areas of development were considered to be? The parents’ comprehension of the children’s needs came out as the most often reported area of development witnessed.. this was followed by basic child care. It was, for example, noted by one social worker –

“The mother is now able to put her child’s needs before her own.”


Social workers reported the main aim of the parent and child foster care placements s being to develop and support parenting skills. In over half of the cases this aim was judged to have been fully met. In two-thirds of the cases, the placements were assessed as having helped “a lot in meeting placement aims.” Some improvement in parenting skills was reported by the social workers when a comparison was drawn between the parenting skills of parents before the placement and once it was in progress. in over four out of ten cases the parent and child foster placement was judged to have been beneficial in developing parenting skills. The study did, however, find that – 

“Although this positive development was apparent in a number of cases, and was the key aim in most placements, it was also the area in which many proved disappointing. this, however, was likely to be linked with parents’ own difficulties rather than the quality of the placement itself. Often this was thought to be to do with the learning difficulties of the parents.”

The study found that three-quarters of the parent and child foster placements that were scrutinized ultimately ended with the parent and child being separated. And for parents the separation was associated with: the parent having been ‘looked after’ themselves; being older – eighteen plus; cases where attachment issues were to the fore; the parenting skills of parents being poor and in particular, their educational capabilities being a factor. For the children the separation was linked to being younger – under the age of six weeks; the number of placements already experiences; where previously a sibling had been separated from the parent and especially situations where more than two siblings had been separated from the parent.

Become a parent and child foster carer with Rainbow

Anyone contemplating becoming a foster carer needs to understand the importance of a commitment to ongoing training. And this we will tailor for parent and child foster carers. Whatever kind of fostering you do, there is always more to learn and improvements to practice made. Rainbow fostering training programmes become more personalised and tailored to enable carers to best meet the needs of the children they are looking after. This is just one of the aspects that makes a career in fostering so rewarding. We regard all our foster carers as professionals with the desire to improve their knowledge and understanding about fostering. And remember, we ensure that if Rainbow foster carers find a course they are interested in and there are enough cares to take part we will organise the session.

Generally, as a Rainbow foster carer, you will be given all the skills and training needed to make a difference in children’s lives. Many of our foster carers decide to access our specialist training – such as managing parent and child foster care. 

We have been rated ‘Outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted recognising the quality of the services we offer. And our intention is simply to continuously improve and enhance the lives of the children and young people our foster carers look after.

In addition to the 3-day ‘Skills to Foster’ course which is obligatory for all applicants, throughout your fostering career you will benefit from a range of specialist therapeutic training courses. These are designed and delivered by experts in their fields and include  – but are not limited to – Parent and Child Training, Building Resilience, The Management of Complex Needs and Handling Issues of Attachment and Trauma.

As a large independent fostering agency (IFA) operating in Hampshire, London, Birmingham and Manchester, our local team members will always be on hand to help you. We are taking calls and answering any questions about foster care. There is plenty of information on our website – as well as the guidance we can email. And we can meet and progress your application ‘virtually’ via Skype as soon as you are ready. 

Please give us a call today on 020 8427 3355 or use our National Line – 0330 311 2845. You can also leave your details with a message and time for one of our advisors to call back:

And for the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus pandemic: how to stay safe, save lives protect the NHS and look after your family visit – And for an interesting blog go to –

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