When applying to foster, we will ask you what age children you are willing to look after. Have you thought about what’s involved in fostering babies and toddlers?
Fostering any child is a 24/7 commitment. You may think foster parents who care for babies feel this the most. Babies need night feeds, cuddles, and constant attention. On the other hand, you may expect caring for a baby to be easier because they haven’t gone through the same trauma as older foster children.
All children you look after will need constant care and attention, and their needs will impact on you and your family. However, when fostering babies, some people feel there are differences.
Why do babies end up in foster care?
In the UK, only 6% of looked after children are under 1 year, with 13% aged 1-4 years*. There are a number of reasons they may end up in foster care:
- Their parents, who feel unable to care for them, may voluntarily place them in care, although this is unusual.
- They may have suffered neglect or abuse
- They may have experienced exposure to drugs or alcohol before birth.
- There may be factors in their family which means their parents cannot safely care for them.
What are your responsibilities when fostering babies?
Many people will experience an urge to take care of a defenceless infant. But it’s important that you fully understand your responsibilities of fostering babies before jumping in.
The early years of any child’s life are critical in their personal development. In the first three years of their life they will develop language, emotional awareness and the fundamental ability to form relationships. They require consistent interaction and engagement to help them form attachments (some people may refer to this as a ‘bond’).
How a child forms attachments early on affects how they view the world and develop relationships later in life. So, your role is an absolutely critical one. You are helping lay foundations for the rest of their life.
You will play a pivotal role in their development. You will also help progress the baby through their care plan. This could be working towards returning them to their birth family, long term fostering or adoption.
Will I be working with the baby’s birth parents if I foster a baby?
You may have to work closely with the birth parents and their family. Part of your job may be to help the birth parent and baby develop their relationship and move forward. This contact with birth parents may take place at home or elsewhere, with supervision from you or a social worker. These meetings may be very frequent – every day even – and can be very difficult at times.
Some babies in care have medical needs. To provide the level of care needed, you may need to undergo specialist training. You may need to take the child to medical appointments, so having your own transport is essential.
If you provide emergency foster care, you might only have a few hours’ notice before a baby arrives. It may be good to keep some essential baby supplies in preparation before fostering babies. They are likely to arrive tired, frightened and hungry so you will need to help them settle.
Could you foster babies?
All the qualities that make a great foster carer apply to fostering babies and toddlers too. We’ve answered some of the most common fostering eligibility questions here. The process of becoming a foster carer is the same as well.
You will need a spare bedroom, although a space for a cot in your room until a baby is 6 months old may be best for them. Having the support of your wider friends and family may also become even more valuable when fostering babies.
The most important requirement for fostering babies is that you can provide the love and nurturing environment they need. As a baby’s caregiver, you must devote a lot of time to their care because they rely on you completely.
What happens when the baby moves on?
Another serious consideration is the impact on you and your family when the baby moves on. You may only care for them briefly. However, you should be prepared to care for them for a long time. This could be for months or even years.
No matter how long they stay, you’ll likely become close to them because of the level of care they need. Saying goodbye can be very tough – but satisfying. You will receive plenty of support from our team throughout this process, but it’s not for everyone.
Can you only foster babies?
Not at all. We need foster parents for children of all ages who need care and support, not just babies and young children. Fostering an older child can be very rewarding.
To learn more about fostering babies and young children, please contact a member of our team. They will gladly answer your questions and provide further information. If you’re fostering in Norfolk or Suffolk you can call our Norwich office on 01603 559255. If you’re fostering babies in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Buckinghamshire or the West Midlands, you can call our Midlands office on 01332 813866.
*Children looked after in England (including adoption), year ending 31 March 2018, Department for Education, 15 November 2018, p. 4. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/757922/Children_looked_after_in_England_2018_Text_revised.pdf (Accessed 12 June 2019)