The reality of parenthood can be daunting for some mums and dads and be a real struggle for them to cope with caring for a newborn child.
Lancashire County Council’s fostering service launched a new campaign today (Monday, 28 June) to find foster carers who can welcome a vulnerable parent and their baby into their home, at a time when they need extra support and might otherwise be separated.
Parent and Child Foster Care is a specialist type of fostering that involves placing a parent, who is experiencing difficulties looking after their baby or young child, in a foster home together. As a Parent and Child Foster Carer, you are giving a family the chance to stay together during a difficult time, when they need extra support and might otherwise be separated from their baby.
Foster carer, Alison Dawson, has been a parent and child foster carer with the county council for five years. Alison has looked after six families during this time, for periods of between five and 16 months. Alison has supported parents between the ages of 14 and 40 and has had a mix of fathers as well as mothers.
Alison said: “Children and their parents have come to live with me for various reasons including domestic abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, learning difficulties, challenges with their mental health and neglect.
“The reality is that the parents often do not have the support of family and friends around them.
“I support the parent who often arrives overwhelmed and anxious, and as a foster carer you are able to offer a safe place for a parent to take their first steps, sharing your own knowledge and advice until they can do it on their own.
“The responsibility is down to the parent – you are pointing them in the right direction, and giving them encouragement and support. You have to let the parent to be a parent, and help them to be able to do this.
“You are really acting as a role model for the parent. As a mentor. You help them to develop a good routine, encourage them as they are developing with essential tasks like learning how to feed and respond to the baby. You also might need to help them with tasks like budgeting, and cooking a meal. The most important aspect though is to support them, suggesting different approaches and ways to try, but always by working together. That’s really important.
“It is an amazing feeling when you see the parent’s development, and their ability to care for their child properly, and you have helped this to happen. The reward can be really great at the end of it, when you have helped the parent either to return with the child to their extended family, or to go on to live independently.”
The baby or child and their parents typically lives with the foster carer for around 12 weeks, although in some instances this may be longer if additional support is needed, whilst the parent/s are given help and advice until they can safely care for the baby on their own, or whilst the decision is made that the baby would be best looked after by someone else.
As a parent and child foster carer, you’ll work closely alongside social workers, health professionals and other agencies, to give the parent and child the best possible chances of staying together long-term and having successful independent lives.
County Councillor Cosima Towneley, cabinet member for children and families, said: “Becoming a parent is one of the biggest challenges of our lives. It can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially if you lack the support of a network of family and friends that many of us take for granted. By providing parent and child foster care, our goal is to support more local families to stay together.
“This type of foster care can be incredibly rewarding, but it is not without its challenges. As a parent and child carer you will play a huge part in setting up a young family for a successful independent life.
“Some people have never experienced a safe secure home, or nurturing environment. As a parent and child foster carer, you can help them to learn and to develop their parenting skills, in a safe and stable environment, which they may never have experienced before.
“We would love to hear from you if you have the time, space and patience. You need to be non-judgemental, and be willing to work together. You need to be able to offer support, and to be their rock throughout their journey .
“If you think you have what it takes to foster a family in this way then please get in touch or you could attend our event on Wednesday, 30 June to find out more.”
An online information event for people thinking about fostering will be held on Wednesday, 30 June, at 6pm. Staff will be available from the fostering recruitment team, as well as specialist parent and child foster carers. At the event, there will be a brief talk to outline the process, which will be followed by a Q and A session.
To find out more visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/fostering or call our friendly team on 0300 123 6723.
Caring for vulnerable children is one of Lancashire County Council’s highest priorities, and its fostering team are available 24/7 to offer support and advice.
Foster carers also have access to their own social worker, a dedicated helpline and flexible training that is local to where they live.
There is also a generous allowance for new foster carers, who can expect to receive between £250 and £428 per week for each child they care for.
Our parent and child placements also have enhanced allowances to reflect the specialist skills needed by our foster carers. Weekly payments are currently £565 for one baby and a parent or £930 for two young children and a parent.
Lancashire County Council welcomes new foster carers from all different backgrounds.
Foster carers need to be over 21 and have a spare room available by the end of the assessment process.
More information about recruitment events are available on the council’s website and posted on social media.