Would you like to open up your home to look after babies and toddlers as a foster carer? If you think you could provide a safe and nurturing space, read on to find out more about what is involved.
The fostering process for babies
Whether you plan to care for teenagers or toddlers, the process itself is largely the same for other types of fostering. When you apply to become a foster carer, part of your application will ask what age groups you would like to be considered to look after.
During your assessment, your suitability for fostering different groups will be appraised, including identifying different strengths and weaknesses that can then be developed. On a practical level, young babies need to stay in the room of caregivers at least until the age of six months, so if you are interested in getting involved in foster care for babies, you will need space for a cot in your bedroom. Children aged two and above must have a bedroom of their own.
The importance of a child’s first three years
Fostering babies and young children is recognised by many as a particularly rewarding role because of the impact the first three years of a child’s life has on their personal development. During this period we develop not only our language skills but also our sense of self, direction of our emotions and some of our ability to form relationships. This can make fostering babies and young children a very demanding role that comes with a lot of responsibility.
As a nurturing foster carer you are likely to witness babies in your care encountering many things for the first time, and will need to provide care that helps how they learn, behave and think far into their future. You will need to prepare very young children in your care for their lives with future adoptive parents or return to their birth parents, depending on the local authority’s Care Plan.
Extra considerations when fostering a baby
Fostering any child is a 24/7 role that requires a lot of energy and focus, and this may be considered even more true in the case of fostering babies. This is because babies require very close care that incorporates tasks such as night feeds, cuddling and soothing.
You will need the skills to work closely with parents and other family members and host meetings with prospective adoptive parents. Contact with birth parents can be very frequent to allow the birth parents/person with parental responsibility the opportunity to develop their attachment relationship.
Children of all ages can come into care in challenging circumstances and while many babies’ caregivers may place them into care voluntarily, others may arrive because they have suffered neglect or been impacted by the drug or alcohol problems of their birth parents. Medical issues and abuse issues in the home can also be contributing factors. This means some babies may have additional care requirements because of resulting developmental or attachment issues or even serious medical problems.
If you’re already a parent or have experience of caring for babies, you may feel confident about your caring abilities. However, unlike the arrival of birth children, you’re likely to have relatively little time to prepare for the entrance of a foster baby into your household. Those who provide emergency foster care for babies may sometimes only get a few hours’ notice in order to prepare. With this in mind, you may decide to keep some essential baby supplies such as a few nappies or clothes in different sizes in preparation for such calls.
Young babies naturally require lots of interaction and engagement to help them learn to bond with people and build their essential skills for life. This close care can make saying goodbye at the end of a placement difficult and while this is something your training and support team will try and prepare you for it’s definitely one of the tougher elements of fostering a baby.