Friday 15 June 2018
Parent and child fostering is a type of fostering in which a foster carer opens their house to a parent or parents and their child or children. There are various different reasons why a parent may come into these types of placement including being a looked after child themselves, young and struggling to adapt, or having learning difficulties. These placements help to keep families together, and provide the chance for parents to learn new skills. This helps them to develop as parents and can stop a child from being taken into care due to a lack of parenting knowledge.
One of our Liverpool carers, Mandy, has been a foster carer for 7 ½ years with Fostering Solutions, and started taking parent and child foster placements in 2014. We spoke to her more about her experiences and why she chooses to open her home to these parents.
Mandy explained how no two placements are ever the same. Being a foster carer for a parent and child can sometimes be tiring at first if parents are not allowed to be left alone with their child to start with. However, the situation is constantly changing, with parents developing new skills all the time, and therefore it’s important to adapt to how the parent is coping with caring for their child safely. By supporting and educating the parent to look after their child, the parent is learning about child development, physical development, and mental wellbeing of both themselves and the child. It’s also important to help the parent access appropriate services and ensure they understand they can trust them. Mandy spoke about how some parents come to her not knowing them can claim benefits such as child benefit, and how it’s her responsibility to ensure that they know how to access these services.
It’s also helping the parent to be more independent. Mandy teaches her placements how to budget, and also how to cook and bake. This gives them the skills they need to survive once they have a house of their own and the placement is over. Mandy compared helping them to set up a house and be independent to looking after a 17-18 year old looked after child, but with a baby too. Mandy’s first placement came to her having some cooking skills but being unable to bake. Her placement learned from Mandy, and baked her child’s first birthday cake.
Being a parent and child foster carer can also mean supporting contact between the child and the parent not in placement. Mandy spoke about how she taught one Dad some parenting skills too during supervised contact sessions as he had little experience as well. There’s also a lot of paperwork to complete. There are various recordings of observations to be kept, as all the new skills the parent is learning needs to be evidenced to ensure that the child will be safe and well looked after when they move to their own home.
There are many benefits to parent and child fostering, both to the parent and child in placement, but also to the foster carer. Many of the parents Mandy has worked with have been involved in the care system themselves growing up. With their parents having struggled with parenting skills themselves, they have not been able to observe good parenting skills and so struggle to develop these. By being in a Parent and Child foster placement, our foster carers are able to teach these parents skills and gives them the opportunity to keep their family together, breaking the cycle of children entering the care system. Mandy told me of one of her placements with whom she is still in touch with now. The parent was a teenage parent who turned her life around from being able to learn from Mandy. She had not been a regular attender of school, but passed her GCSE’s whilst living with Mandy, and is now studying at college with the aim of going to university.
As well as benefitting families by keeping them together, these placements are also beneficial to foster carers. Mandy spoke about how she enjoys the challenges each new placement brings. She explained how she came into fostering to make a difference, and now she is able to keep families together and change the lives of parents who would previously have struggled with raising a child, but also helping children who may have ended up in the care system themselves at a later date. Mandy also likes the flexibility of parent and child foster care. Being shorter placements, this allows Mandy to fit other aspects of her life in around these placements and to plan ahead such as visiting her son in Australia.
With any foster placement, there will always be challenges. When looking after a parent and child, this is no different. Parents can often be averse to working with social workers and professionals at first, for fear of taking their child away from them. This is particularly common with children who have grown up in the care system. Mandy spoke about how this was always the biggest challenge to overcome, by getting the parent to trust the professionals and be honest with them. One of Mandy’s parents was concerned about the development of her child. Prior to her placement, the parent would not have approached anyone for help, but as she was more trusting of professionals after living with Mandy, she was able to express her concerns to a health visitor without fear of being judged and get the help her child needed.
Another challenge within parent and child foster care is ensuring the parents are able to identify the help they need. Mandy identifies lots of training workshops that her parents can attend to help them develop parenting skills, but she also helps them with any mental health issues or learning difficulties they may have. This allows them to improve their wellbeing, alongside learning how to look after their child safely.
Being a foster carer has lots of memorable moments, but Mandy finds the best moment for her is seeing all her placements again and keeping in touch with them. When possible, Mandy has an annual tea party for all her parent and child placements in which she can catch up with how they are all doing. She loves to see the children again and how they are growing up, and she finds it heart-warming to see how the parents have changed with jobs, college courses and good futures to look forward to. See also enjoys going along to birthday parties she’s invited to and receiving messages of thanks from old placements to make it all worthwhile.
We asked Mandy what she most enjoyed about being a parent and child foster carer, and her answer was keeping families together. By seeing the children develop, and giving the parents a chance to develop their skills and keep the family together, it helps to break the cycle of children being taken into care. It gives a family a chance to develop and stay together, which gives the child the best chances in life.