Parent and Child Fostering: A Mum's Perspective
03 October 2023
03 October 2023
Whilst the majority of fostering involves looking after a child or young person, Parent and Child fostering is less common. It involves opening your home to a parent along with their baby or young child, offering them vital skills and support in their parenting journey. In a Parent and Child placement, the focus is not only on changing a child's life for the better but their parent’s too.
Five years on from her placement, Katie shares a very honest insight about how the Parent and Child placement experience was for her: at times scary, lonely, and isolated, but ultimately the catalyst which she now credits with saving her life.
Names have been changed to protect privacy.
03 October 2023
I’m happy to do it, especially if it helps more people to understand what’s involved.
I'm 26 now and my daughter is eight. My daughter had her third birthday in foster care, so… it was around five years ago that we had our placement. I was 21.
Domestic violence led to social services wondering if I could care for my daughter. The concern was that I might put her in harm's way. It was partly that which led to my placement, and partly because my perpetrator was due to come out of prison soon. Even though I was placed locally, it was safer for us to be where we weren’t expected to be [rather than at home] where he could find us.
To go from just me and my daughter to being in a house with five other people and a dog, was a massive change.
Before moving into the placement, we were living alone. It was just me, my child and my partner. Then we moved into the foster carer’s house and it was a much bigger place. I had to get rid of my dog because we weren't allowed to take my dog into care with us. I wasn't allowed my car because we weren't allowed to just be out and about on our own. I had to be watched to do food shopping… yeah, it was different. We went from a home of mostly just me and my daughter - because when my partner was at home he was angry, and when he wasn't at home, he wasn't at home! So, to go from just me and my daughter to being in a house with five other people and a dog, was a massive change.
Yes, around five and a half, six months, which I know for a P&C placement is a relatively short period. I met quite a few other placements. A lot of them didn't even have their children allowed to sleep in the same room as them. They had to sleep in a separate room and the child would sleep with the foster carer in their room. Luckily it wasn’t like that for myself and my child. We had our own little system. We had our own room together. We had our own bathroom, we cooked our own food.
We still meet up regularly. Not as regularly as I would like, but we still see each other more than I thought we would. And she could tell you herself, when it's her birthday I post on her Facebook that she's my guardian angel - because she is. I genuinely believe that if I’d never been placed with her, I'd probably be dead. As a victim of violence I was in a position where I could have died at any point - easily. So, for me, being there…
When it's her birthday I post on her Facebook that she's my guardian angel - because she is.
I feel like if I hadn't had that space and that ability to be somewhere else in a different sort of mind frame; to see a healthy relationship like James and Serena have, loving each other... I think without the placement I probably would have gone back [to him]. I'd been with him since I was 13, and it was all I knew. There are a lot of women that go into foster care with their child - and Serena will tell you herself – she’s had a lot of children that have had to be… been left, like the mums have left the house and the children have had to stay behind to keep them safe. I feel like if I hadn't had that time to build very real-life skills and healthy attachments and just see real life…
I think, yeah, I probably would have gone back, and my daughter would probably be in care, and I'd probably be dead and that’s terrible to say, but that's the reality.
She encouraged me to do things that I didn't want to do that definitely set me up for life.
The first couple of weeks you're not allowed out by yourself. I had to be chaperoned everywhere I went. We ate dinner together. And there were a few times we bumped heads. I was used to my own space and I didn't want to be told. You know, I'd been thinking that I was a grown-up woman since I was 13 years old. I moved out of home at 14. I thought I was a big girl who knew about stuff, and I had no idea.
There were times when she would suggest I attend baby classes and I was so anxious about going and sitting their with the other mums. I was like, ‘I don’t want to go! I hate it!’ But she encouraged me to do things that I didn't want to do that definitely set me up for life. She also helped me manage my money. We used to sit down and do my incomings and my outgoings. She used to help me with that and she was just someone that I could speak to. I knew that she was writing things about me because she had to, but also at the same time, she wouldn't write them in the way that made me worried. I knew they came from a non-judgmental place. She used to say, ‘When I write things down don't take it as a bad thing. I'm just generally writing. I just have to write.’
I think one of the worst was my daughter’s birthday because it was within the first couple of days. We weren't allowed to see family. We weren't allowed out by ourselves. And when you are in a domestic violent relationship, you need your family.
I’d say the best thing was having Serena. Even now to this day, I can rely on her massively. Even now, you know? Sometimes I'll say to her, ‘Can I ask you this?’ I can ask her now as a friend, and I can get the expert opinion without the judgment that possibly might have come from it five years ago. So yeah, having Serena in my life is the best thing that came out of it.
I think Serena is one of the best people that I've ever, ever met.
We used to have Blue Sky days. They took us out all the time. A lot of Serena's friends were other foster carers, mums who had children with them too. So, we used to go out and do things and we'd go around people's houses. My social worker wasn't from Blue Sky, but they supported Serena and organized a lot of things for us to do.
I know that they're needed - and I know that the supply of them is running short - but I’d rather someone came forward that wants to make a difference in someone's life, rather than someone doing it just because they want to get paid. If you’re going to do it you’re going to have to want to do it. You're going to have to want to make a difference in someone's life.
I think Serena is one of the best people that I've ever, ever met. I feel like if that experience wasn't with her, I wouldn't have had the experience that I had. So, yeah, obviously we need more foster carers, but at the same time, I don’t think it's a job that just anyone can do. I think you have to be dedicated and passionate about helping people and you know, some people don't have that in them. So the advice I'd give is, if you want to do it now, just go for it. Give it your all because you'll you make an impact on someone's life in more ways that you can even imagine.