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Claire and Nick - Parent and child fostering

Claire and Nick live in the Nuneaton area and have a son aged five and look after a teenager in a permanent/long term placement who has been with them for 7 years. Nick has been a foster carer for 17 years and Claire and Nick have been fostering together for eight years. They have been parent and child foster carers for the past two years and prior to this have done short term and respite fostering. In this time they have offered homes to over 20 children and had three parent and child placements.

Nick is a very experienced carer having looked after around 50 children in addition to those he has cared for with Claire. He became a foster carer because his mum and dad fostered while he was growing up and he enjoyed being part of a fostering household. He was able to see the benefits that fostering can bring both for the carers and for the children.

When Claire met Nick she wanted to join him in being a fostering family as she wanted to be able to help change the lives of troubled children. Claire was raised by a single mother and was able to stay in her care but she was aware at that time other children from single parent families may experience more problems and may have to be fostered. Claire said that when she began fostering it was an eye opening experience and she was able to see first-hand some of the issues faced by looked after children and their families.

Alongside their permanent/long term placement Claire and Nick have specialised in providing Parent and Child places. The placements are easier when the parent (usually a mum) comes straight to their home from hospital so they can help to support the formation of a strong emotional bond. They help the mums to learn about care for their baby, establishing routines with the baby and caring for them in a warm and safe way. Claire remembers what it was like to be a new mum and so can empathise with the new mums in her care. She see it that no one really teaches you or prepares you about how to care for your baby and when you bring your baby home from hospital it is a learning curve and is happy to support this process.

Claire said that when mum’s come to stay with them with their baby she feels like they have something in common, the mum wants to keep her baby and Claire and Nick wants to help them to learn the skills so they can. Claire and Nick describe their role as teaching parenting skills, overseeing the mums in their parenting role and supervising and advising the parent. After 8-12 weeks a parenting assessment would start, carried out by Children’s Services to see whether the mum is able to put these new skills into action. The outcome of this assessment and the progress the mother has made during the placement inform whether a mother gets to keep her child long term.

Claire and Nick explained that in both of their longer term placements the mothers had problems in relation to their relationships with their baby’s father and this was the biggest challenge. There were concerns about domestic violence in the relationships between the parents and their role was to make the mother see that the baby was their priority and had to be protected. Claire said: “The mothers that stayed with us were able to be away from their own area so this helped them to have some distance and start a fresh. We would talk to the mums about the impact of violence on them and their child and get advice from other agencies on how to help and support the mums through the transition of ending a violent relationship.”

Claire and Nick feel they have overcome challenges by communicating well with the mother in their care and other agencies involved so they can help and support the mother to make the right decisions for the sake of her baby.

Claire and Nick felt that if a mum was found not to be able to care for her child safely long term following a placement then this would be very sad and would be a big challenge for them as carers.

Claire and Nick feel very proud and happy that the parent and child placements they had for a longer term period were able to care for their babies well and were able to take their babies to live with them independently.

Claire says she would help new mums to realise the realities of caring for a baby and would support the mums to go to the local mother and baby groups and would encourage them to take courses at the local children’s centre. Claire said she hoped that when the mums moved to homes of their own with their babies that they would get involved with their local groups and centres.
Claire and Nick think that Parent and Child carers need to be committed, understanding, patient, empathetic, happy to be challenged, able to work in partnership with the new mum and be able to give and take. Nick said: “It is important to be able to step back when a mum is doing well and be able to intervene when things aren’t going well or you feel that the baby may be at risk.”

In giving advice for anyone starting out as a Parent and Child carer, Nick said: “Try to build a positive working relationship with the parent you are supporting and this can be more difficult if the parent has a learning disability.”

“Try to be prepared for both the best and worst case scenarios – we have been lucky and the mums we have cared for have kept their babies but it can be very sad for parents who are unable to gain the skills to keep their children long term.”

“Always try to communicate well with your fostering social worker and other professionals involved and make good use of the support they can provide”

“Have clear guidelines and boundaries in place when a parent moves in so everyone knows where they stand.”