Over the past year, there has been an increase in the number of babies being taken into local authority care.

In some cases, where mothers have continued to abuse substances during pregnancy, babies are born addicted to drugs or alcohol. That’s why at AFA Fostering, our foster carers are given relevant training and support to help them manage the baby’s health needs and symptoms.

Support to work with social care and health professionals

As well as the group and one to one training we offer, we have access to a wide content of online training. For example, upon placing a baby who has/is suspected to have Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), we support the foster carer in working with the local authority social worker and other professionals such as hospital staff and the health visitor to develop a good understanding of that child’s needs. Online resources relating to FASD can be accessed quickly, providing additional support to foster carer when they need it.

FASD not only impacts in the physical sense but as children grow, they may also experience potential impacts in terms of their cognitive, social and behavioural development and we provide long term support to enable our foster carers to develop their understanding in this regard.

Why is there an increase in babies coming into care?

Heads of local authority children’s services report that the rise is indicative of national trends. This may be due to hospitals and local authorities working closely together to identify babies and children who are most at risk, by understanding the issues that lead to very young children entering care with the experience of second-hand alcohol and drug abuse.

For babies born addicted to drugs, it can take several months for them to adjust to being substance-free, affecting their sleep routines, and their brain development. Where we can, we are keen to plan around these placements. Foster carers may need to go into hospital, spending time getting to know the child before taking them home. This helps to start build familiarity and attachments to better support the child’s ability to settle into their new home.

Removing a child is a last resort

It isn’t always the case that a baby, or young child, is removed from birth parents. As with all care placement decisions, great care is taken to identify risks, and ascertain if the child can remain with parents, if it is safe to do so. Taking a child away from a family is a last resort.

Part of a foster carer’s role is to understand the full circumstances, and recognise the anxieties of the birth parents, so that when a child is expected to return home, they can care for the child in partnership with parents to make the transition as comfortable as possible.

Could you pass on your own parenting experience?

As well as fostering babies, there is a growing need for foster carers who can support parents to care for their children in ‘parent and child’ placements. Typically, it might be considered that these placements are only accessed by young, first time mothers however in reality, each referral is different.

Over the years that we have been providing these placements, our foster carers have supported first time mothers but also more mature mothers who have had previous children perhaps removed from their care. They have supported fathers and their babies as well as, at times, both parents together with their baby as well as older children also on occasions.

We provide a wide range of training to foster carers

All of our foster carers offering these placements undertake our bespoke parent and child training as well as additional online training. They have access to additional learning in terms of knowledge shared by relevant professionals, for instance from the Parent and Infant Mental Health Assessment Team and are also offered reflective group sessions where they can share their experiences and draw on that of others.

As with all our carers, they have access to 24/7 support because we know that opening your home to another adult (or two) as well as your children is not without its challenges.

We are always keen to discuss the potential for parent and child placements with people coming forward to foster. Becoming a foster carer can be life-changing for everyone involved particularly given that most children and young people who come into foster care have experienced some level of trauma which can have lasting effects.

Could you make a difference to a child in care?

Some foster carers have children of their own, who enjoy sharing their home and their time with children who are looked after. Fostering isn’t a job, it’s a vocation and a lifestyle. When a child is placed with our foster carers, they commit to making a real difference.

Foster carers work hard to build trust with a child, to build their confidence and sense of self-worth, and to give them the normal family life they deserve — with all its ups and down, and at AFA we work hard to support our carers through the good times but also through the challenging periods.

For more information about fostering babies, and parent and child fostering with AFA Fostering, you can view our video of our carers, Maxine and Gary and read about parent and child fostering on our website.

If you feel you could help a child or young person to heal by offering a spare bedroom in a stable, secure and loving home, we provide our foster carers with an allowance to care for a child, and training and support that is second to none. Please call our friendly team on 01603 559255 to find out more about fostering.