Caroline from Gloucester started fostering for an agency in 2006. When they weren’t able to offer parent and child foster placements, Caroline chose to transfer to Gloucestershire County Council in 2013. Caroline started fostering when her two daughters were both teenagers. She had experience working in a nursery and as a childminder.
Parent and Child fostering
I really enjoyed being a mum – I loved it! I worked from home as a childminder so that I could spend more time with my daughters.
When I began fostering, I fostered two other teenage girls but I really love little ones and I wanted to do parent and child fostering. I also love being able to give people support and independence, so all the things I wanted to achieve I could do with parent and child fostering. Now, parent and child fostering is the one I love most.
I feel I was a good mum and I can be a role model to the parent, teaching them the skills you might think they should have but that they haven’t got. The way other people have been brought up isn’t the same as my experience or my children’s experience. So the parent won’t always have the same insight into being a parent.
It’s important to be tolerant. I used to take certain things for granted, thinking that every parent wants the same thing for their baby but they don’t. You really need to work with them to get the best outcomes for their child.
You also need to be persistent, going over and over, repeating things. Your role is to guide the parent and encourage them to be organised.
It takes a lot of your time. It’s sleepless nights, constant encouragement and support. Teaching the parent to listen to the cues, not allowing babies to get bored. I encourage the mums not to be on their mobiles when the baby is awake. I also encourage lots of interaction with the babies.
Each situation is individual. Sometimes a parent isn’t willing to listen or engage. Sometimes they make poor choices, for example choosing an abusive partner rather than being able to take their babies home. Sometimes the mums will keep in touch and they will say things like, “I’m very grateful that my baby is with you”.
Preparing children for adoption
When the Mum is here, that’s easy. I encourage them to do most of the work – feeding, cuddling, playing and bonding with their baby.
It’s difficult if the Mum decides to leave because the child still needs to be shown love and affection. You get attached and it’s difficult when they go. Once the Court decides that the baby should be adopted, there are still months when you’re caring for them. It can be like losing one of your own when they go but you have to pick yourself up and move on.
I help through the adoption process. I have an input into the choice of adopters and can say what I feel the child needs. The adoptive parents can be here a lot. Initially they are just observing, then feeding and playing with the child. I start to step back and they do more. They start taking the child out and eventually the child moves in with the adoptive parents. I stay in contact after the Adoption Order.
When it works
There was a mum and her little girl and they stayed for the 12 weeks. She achieved all the things she needed to and managed to get a flat of her own. It felt really good, knowing I’d done everything I could do to keep the family together. She was very willing to engage and do what was needed for her child.
My fostering social worker is brilliant – I can’t fault him. There is also a parent and child support group, where other local foster carers who do the same kind of fostering can meet up, share tips and support each other.
Parent and Child fostering is short-term and you can take a break between placements. You do develop attachments so sometimes you need a few weeks break. My daughters and I talk about it and discuss whether we’ll do it again and they always say yes!
If you’re considering it, give it a go because there are a lot of rewards.