Mother and baby (Parent and child) fostering
This type of UK fostering involves the mother or father, who is experiencing difficulties, and their baby or young child being placed together in foster care.
This kind of placement is often an alternative to a mother and baby residential unit and usually results from a court referral, but not always.
The council or a court can decide if it is necessary for a placement to be made and the cost of a specialised twelve week residential placement can be up to £60,000 compared to around £750 per week in a foster home.
There are three types of parenting placements, ‘assessment’, which assesses the parent’s ability for up to twelve weeks, ‘pre-birth’, helps parents to get ready for the birth, and ‘parenting support’ which teaches and supports parenting skills.
A baby’s social worker may make the decision for a parent and child fostering placement, if the parent isn’t coping well and needs extra help but doesn’t have an extended family. The parent might not necessarily be a young person.
Mother and baby carers have usually had a lot of fostering experience, have been parents themselves (but not always) and have attended specialised training courses.
UK Foster carer’s role
- foster carers usually don’t provide full care of the baby (except if required) but they help and encourages the parent to develop their skills.
- the foster carer has an important role observing and recording how the parent looks after the child.
Mother and baby fostering, can be complex and challenging and the foster carer requires skills and qualities such as:
- 24-hour commitment
The foster care assessment
The most used UK assessment tool by private and local authority fostering agencies is the Form F Assessment document which asks questions about your childhood through to your present, and how your life experiences provide evidence of what you can give to children.
A qualified social worker will make a minimum of 8 visits to you and your family to work through the sections of the Form F. You will be asked to do some homework and your 3 referees and any other relevent people will be interviewed.
Generally, foster carers make regular payments as agreed in the care plan, to the parent of a baby she/he is caring for. The payment is made up from any Benefits received by the parent.
Giving an allowance to the parent lets them be responsible for the baby or toddler’s daily care, and is an important part of the support and supervision by the foster carer in assessing the potential of the parent to care, or not, permanently for their child.
Foster carers allowance
UK Fostering agencies pay their foster carers different amounts depending on the agency’s individual pay rates and complexities of the placement. On average carers receive a weekly allowance of £700 for both parent and baby.
To date, a pregnant under 16 year old can claim the Health in Pregnancy Grant, paid to support a healthy lifestyle however unless they have been in employment, no other welfare benefits until they are 16, when Child Benefit can be claimed.
From 16 and after the birth , the parent can apply for a Sure Start maternity grant and Child Tax Credit for their child, if the baby is in care or not, if mum and baby are living together.
Tracy left school at 15. After a several periods in children homes she was back living with her mother but they continually argued. There was a lot of alcohol being drunk in the family which hardly helped and Tracy soon became pregnant.
‘I planned it, I wanted to have my own baby but when you’re young, you don’t realise what you’re getting yourself into – like the responsibility, and it is a big responsibility. You just think about having this nice baby and showing it off.’
Tracy was not coping and it was decided that she and her unborn babt were at risk so her local social services agreed it was best to place Tracy in a foster home. With no qualifications and an unstable home-life, Julie would have faced an uphill battle trying to provide a secure and loving home for her baby. The statistics show that babies born to teenage mothers often end up in care.
‘At first they wanted to put me into a hotel-place, the local mother and baby hostel. I went there and it was really rough. I hated the look of it but I had been in a foster home before and I quite liked it, so when they asked me if I would like to be placed with a family I said yes.’
Tracy was five months pregnant when she moved to foster care. She had her baby son, stayed for six months then moved into her own flat and with help, started a hairdresser course at her local college.
With the help of their foster carer, mum and baby were given the best start possible.