Parent and Child fostering - Foster Care Fortnight

A foster carer shares her families experience of parent and child fostering.

Parent and child foster care typically provides a home and support for a new mother and her baby or young child, to help the mother care for her child in the long term. Occasionally, this placement could be offered to birth fathers keen to care for their child when the birth mother is unable to. The parents are often teenagers themselves. One parent and child foster carer shares their story with us.

Fostering is something my husband and I have thought about and talked about from the early days of our marriage. We made some initial enquiries in 2010, but with both of us working in jobs we loved and with three birth children at home, it didn’t feel like the right time. The door wasn’t closed for us, but was left ajar, and over the next few years our desire to care for children who needed a home grew. I loved being a mum, caring for my children brought me such joy, and we felt we could offer that love and care to more children than just the three in our home. We were approved as short-term foster carers in 2013.

Our second placement was a newborn baby who came to us straight from the hospital at two days old. His mummy was a teenager, and we got to know her very well and very quickly. Her story was one with a lot of hurt, and the situation she found herself in was a really difficult one, but she was a great person who really loved her baby.

I loved caring for this little one, but I remember the heartbreak I felt at their being separated. They got to see each other three times a week in a contact centre; how can you squeeze that love into such a short visit? How could we truly expect mummy to form a bond with her son in such a short space of time, and in that kind of environment? I remember thinking, “If only we could have mummy come and live with us too.”

I was at a conference with my church when the speaker referred to a verse in Isaiah, and the words hit me like a ton of bricks. Isaiah 54:2 says, “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. The Amplified Bible translation actually says, “Enlarge the site of your tent [to make room for more children]”. I still have those words scribbled in my journal, enlarge, stretch, lengthen strengthen. I came home from that conference and told my husband, “I think we need to build an extension on our house so baby’s mother can move in.”

We spoke to our social workers about the idea, and they were quite surprised at first that we were willing to make such a big change to our home to allow this baby and his mother a chance to be together. There weren’t very many people doing this kind of care in our area at that time, and the social workers had some quite specific criteria that a young mum would have to meet in order to have this kind of placement. This particular young woman met their criteria, and we were sure that this was something we wanted to try, so while baby was still in our care we extended our utility room, put in a downstairs shower room and a new bedroom, for the sole purpose of parent and child fostering.

We were filled with hope for the family that would live in this little room. We had a number of people from our church family pray over the space before mummy moved in, and there was such a sense that God had this family and this situation in hand. The reality is that this placement didn’t end the way we hoped and prayed it would. Mummy moved in and at first, things seemed to going well. But after a few weeks, she and I had a conversation.

She told me, “I just want to be a teenager.” I totally understood. This girl loved her son so much, but at the end of the day she hadn’t really chosen to live with us; she felt she had no other choice. This girl was young, and yet had experienced more of life and of the care system than most people I know, and she knew what was best for her child. After a few weeks with us this young lady made the difficult but brave decision to move out, and when baby was nine months he moved on to a new adoptive family.

This story doesn’t have the outcome we hoped and prayed it would, but I hold on to that sense we had when praying for the room that God has this family in His hands; we don’t know and we won’t know the details of how that will look, but we believe and trust that it’s true. It was an honour to play a small part in their story, to offer them a seat around our dinner table, to invite them into our community, to laugh with them, and to create a space for them to be together.

Parent and child fostering is a really unique type of foster care. It requires a lot of time and attention to detail; we had to keep a record of everything we did, and had a weekly review with a number of professionals to discuss the best way forward. It requires the ability to care for both a young child and a teenager or adult, and you need to be able to balance coaching and guiding the parent, and stepping back to allow them to look after their own child. And, as with every type of foster care, you have to be prepared for a goodbye of some sort.

But if you can offer a young parent the chance to stay with their child, if you can create a space where they are safe and supported to explore and navigate the rollercoaster of parenthood with someone by their side, then parent and child fostering can have an enormous and lasting impact on both parent and baby’s lives. There are young parents, often with care experience themselves, who really could be brilliant mums or dads, but whose circumstances are limiting them from fulfilling that potential. Our room is ready for the next parent and child who might need it.

If you think you could offer a vulnerable child a safe and loving home through fostering, or want to find out more about how you or your church can play your part in finding a home for every child who needs one, we would love to hear from you. Click here to get in touch.


Author:
Home for Good


Date published:
May 2021


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