Understanding Parent and Child Fostering
What is parent and child fostering? Parent and child fostering is a unique concept, in which foster carers commit to fostering parent and child together. Not all placements will involve young mothers and babies; hence Parent and Child fostering rather than ‘mother and baby’. Parent and Child Placements are for parents of any age with a baby (or child/children under school age) where local authorities have identified a potential child protection issue. They could include; mum and child, dad and child or both parents and a child or children.
By opening their homes to vulnerable families, foster carers provide vital parenting support, observing the family, sharing advice, and helping to build parenting skills. Parent and child foster care allows carers to make a difference in the lives of families, giving them the opportunity to stay together.
Providing Support for a Vulnerable Family
In this kind of foster caring, families live with the foster carers, usually for about three months, but sometimes as long as 18 months. Foster carers offer support and work with social workers to assess whether the birth family is able to stay together. Rather than the foster carers taking over for the parents, they play a supportive role, giving advice and then stepping back to observe. The goal is to ensure the child’s safety and help the parents develop the skills necessary to keep their families intact.
Allowing Families to Remain Intact
Sometimes, parent and child fostering allows parents and children who have been separated to be together again, with support from the foster carers that may not be available from family and others in the community. The parents get an opportunity to show their parenting skills, and the foster carers keep comprehensive records. By documenting how the parents and children get on together, the parent and child carers can provide valuable evidence in court in order to help families stay together. The notes and observations from the carers are shared with the parents during their stay, as well as being shared with the social workers.
Offering Parental Advice
It is very rewarding to help families in this way, but it is not without its challenges. It is not always easy for parents to accept feedback, so foster carers are provided with in-depth training and support so that they can better offer support. The feedback is often practical advice. For instance, if a baby is not eating enough, the carer will talk with the parent about how many bottles a baby needs in a day and how often he or she needs to feed. The next step is to talk about different ways to remember how often to feed the baby, like setting reminders on the phone.
Empathetically Supporting Parents and Children
While the practicality of the advice is important, it is even more important for a foster carer to offer empathy. Often, parents are doing their best but have not had much guidance or input. They want to keep their children, and learning new parenting skills is a priority for them because they know how much is riding on it. When families are able to remain together, it is a positive outcome for the family, and a rewarding feeling for the foster carers. Knowing that you have had some part in keeping children out of foster care by supporting a family through parent and child foster placement makes any challenges feel worthwhile. Even if the parents and children are unable to remain together, it is important to know that the parents were given the opportunity to hone their parenting skills.
Skills for Parent and Child Fostering
To be successful at this demanding task, it is beneficial to have prior foster experience, or experience supporting young parents (they could be family members) or parents who have high needs that interfere with them caring for their own children. Acorn also welcomes people from professions with specific skills that would be beneficial to this type of fostering; midwives, health workers, police officers, nursery workers, and people working in adult social care or mental health. If you think you would be a good fit for parent and child foster care, you will receive training and support, in addition to a weekly parent and child fostering allowance to help make it more financially feasible for you to devote yourself to helping nurture a vulnerable family, providing empathetic support along with tools and skills to help them stay together.
Becoming a Foster Carer
Are you interested in becoming a foster carer? At Acorn Fostering Services, we provide good quality foster placements for children, young people, and vulnerable families, and we are always looking for foster carers who can offer children sensitivity and care. An Ofsted approved and registered independent fostering agency, we are based in Leicester and provide fostering agency services throughout the East and West Midlands and Northern Counties, helping establish foster families and providing foster parenting help when needed. If you think you have the life experience and qualities that would help you care for children of all types and you want to learn more about foster caring, call us on 0116 251 3550, or contact us through our website.