Foster carers are particularly needed at this time to support Parent and Child placements. This is another in the series that sheds light on this specialist kind of placement by recording the opinions of foster carers involved.
The essential qualities a foster carer must bring to this distinct role are the same as for other types of fostering: compassion, dedication and commitment. Now is a good time to share some of the experiences and memories foster carers who work in this area of caregiving. So thank you to Veronica for sharing your views with us…
I have been with Rainbow fostering for many years. I am beginning to lose count. It’s into double figures at least. For the last five years, I have been a Parent and Child foster carer. Before that, I had a mix of short-term placements and one long-term placement. There were many ups and downs along the way which is the experience of most foster carers. But I have my faith to guide me. At one point I did think seriously about adoption. But around that time, I was also doing courses on a regular basis and enjoying increasing my general knowledge about fostering. What started me in the direction of Parent and Child fostering was a course I did on it. There were things that reminded me of my previous work in nursing – the life I led before leaving to bring up my two daughters. Looking back, I can see our family had benefited from the experiences of having foster children with us. I can also see how positive it was for my daughters. They left home some years back around the time I did the course that was specific to Parent and Child fostering – then called Mother and Baby foster care.
The house had seemed very empty just being there with my husband. It left me with a whole lot of time to think. I had the feeling that looking after a young mother or father and helping them to build a relationship with their baby would be something completely different from fostering as I had known it. A new challenge that would draw on some skills – admittedly rusty – gained when I worked as a nurse in a paediatric ward.
All foster carers are motivated by the thought they can make a significant difference. I felt I had reached a stage in my own fostering experience where I could see the possibility of making an even bigger difference. Especially as helping a mother (or father) to keep their baby is keeping a family together. I could see it was possible to keep that family together right on into the future – a wonderful thing. The downside is that there are times when it will be judged that it is in a baby’s interests to be removed. This means as a Parent and Child foster carer, there’s pressure as from the start you have to be thinking about the welfare and safety of the baby is paramount. This can be confusing because when the placement starts, it will be the mother’s needs that you will be most aware of. Obviously, this is because a young person or adult can communicate all their needs, fears and frustrations. A baby can’t.
As a foster carer, you have to be mindful that you are caring for both mother and baby. Assessing and meeting the needs of the mother is clearly important, but it is understanding, observing and developing the relationship she (or he) has with the baby that matters. This can be quite challenging. In my experience young mothers are confused and often angry. They are separated from everything that might be familiar. And they are frightened of losing their baby. Their moods can swing and this can make it hard to start to build a healthy and productive relationship. This can be hard as the mother will understand that she is being assessed. This type of fostering particularly demands the accurate keeping of records and sharp observational skills. And here, my training in nursing all those years ago stood me in good stead.
To begin, with a mother might feel she is being watched all the time and this can affect her being able to develop a bond with her baby. Progress is being made when you can see that the mother is beginning to see when her baby has needs and is able to respond in the right way. I think the most important thing is for the foster carer to see this happening and offer ongoing encouragement. This way the mother can begin start to have confidence and belief in her own abilities. How much she is able to do this will decide in the end if she can keep the baby.
One of the things I try to keep hold of is the idea that being around a baby shouldn’t always be work. It should be fun as well. After all everything in the world for a baby is new and intriguing. A tip I share is to suggest looking for ways to use that sense of wonder because it can be a bridge for communication. I make sure I have bubble mixture in the kitchen so a young mum can blow bubbles for her baby. This is, if you think about it, a kind of communication. Babies are always delighted and entranced by floating bubbles. I have seen this be the start of genuine interaction between a mother and her baby. It can be the smallest things on which the most lasting things are built.
As a Parent and Child foster carer, it’s my belief you never stop learning. I have also gained valuable insights from the support networks and training sessions Rainbow Fostering have made available. These are positive experiences where knowledge is shared. And the sense of being with people all making an effort in the same direction is nurturing for me as a foster carer.
All views expressed are personal ones and name(s) have been changed to protect privacy.
Foster with Rainbow.
Fostering is rewarding but it’s also challenging. We get a great many referrals for vulnerable children needing to be fostered. So, have a think, could you foster someone like Martin?
Martin is 12 and his family have been known to social services for a number of years. This is because his parents have both engaged in substance misuse – particularly his father. This has made Martin’s home environment unstable and at times chaotic. Not unnaturally, Martin is angry a lot of the time and this affects his schoolwork. But his teachers report he is a bright little boy. Martin needs foster carers who can see beyond his difficult behaviours and understand they are a reaction to his troubled circumstances. We know that Martin will benefit from being with foster carers who can set boundaries, show empathy and understanding, establish routines in a home that is secure and stable.
Rainbow train foster carers to make the difference to young lives like Martin’s. We are a supportive sharing community looking for more people to join us.
Rainbow has been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. This means our applicants and foster carers can depend on receiving the best support, guidance and training available.
Find out more about the varied career opportunities fostering now offers. Call our team on 0330 311 2845 today to find out about the opportunities we have in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Hampshire
Fostering is open to people who are (over 21) married, divorced, single or cohabiting. You can foster children or young people whatever your sexual orientation, ethnicity or cultural background. There is no upper age limit to being a foster carer. You should be reasonably fit. You do not have to own your own home.
Now another national lockdown is in force, we are holding initial interviews online via Skype. So you can apply to foster with us right now. It’s an easy process – a member of our recruitment team will be available to help you.
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