Thinking about becoming a foster parent to babies? Here's what to consider when fostering an infant
PUBLISHED: 15:56 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 17 April 2019
Newham Recorder chats to Sue Price of East Ham, a foster parent who cares for babies through the Newham borough council, about what to expect as a foster carer to infants
Sue Price, 50, began fostering babies eight years ago as a way to give her an income while at home with her three young children. She looks after one or two babies at a time, between the ages of new-born to two-years-old, on average for six to 12 months. Sue provides care from her home, which she shares with her partner, three children, her dog and a cat. Here, she shares her experience of being a foster parent to infants.
What can I expect when fostering a baby?
My start was a baptism of fire. However, I developed a lot more skills working with parents and the contact centre where meetings between the babies and their families are held.
I also developed an understanding of my own limitations going forward. Because my own children have their own activities, I learnt that I couldn't do after school and weekend contact meetings with families.
A lot of foster babies will have contact with their birth mothers and families at the contact centre.
I've looked after babies of every ethnicity as well as ones who have cerebral palsy and blindness, genetic conditions, low birth-weight babies and loads of healthy ones too.
What is required to foster?
People who want to foster babies must be able to commit to caring full-time. It's only if foster children are school aged there is the potential to do additional work.
Also, what many people don't realise is that you can take a break between fostering placements if you need to catch up on life.
I am part of a foster couple, however, I am the main carer. My partner does two night-feeds a week and helps me out a lot, which I really appreciate.
My children are really great with the foster babies. They were three, five and six when I started, so they've grown up with babies around them.
What training is provided?
A lot of the training is about understanding how children come into care, and how parents end up in the circumstances they find themselves in.
Training also focuses on the differences between birth and foster children, because how you care for a foster child is slightly different to how you would care for your birth child. It prepares you to be more mindful about how you handle situations like bath-times and story-times, because it might not be appropriate to read in bed with your foster child, like you would your own.
I've had the same social worker since I began, and she has been a huge support to me. She understands me, my family and my kids, and we have great faith in each other. If there have been any challenges, she has been right there to help. I feel that one of the advantages of working with a child-friendly local authority rather than a private fostering agency is the level of support you get.
Is fostering a baby difficult?
Fostering is a funny thing; I do get a salary from it but I also do it for the love of it.
I take a lot of pride in knowing the babies are progressing. It's hugely satisfying watching them reach a milestone. In that sense, it's as if they were your own child and I take a lot of pleasure in watching them develop – watching them gain weight is the only time I am happy to see the scales go up!
It's lovely when their family comment that the child is doing well - maybe they've said a word early because I've been reading to them. I was once caring for a child that was quite poorly, and there were low expectations for her. It was wonderful to hear her making sounds, trying to communicate.
But what I enjoy the most is seeing the baby move on, and where to and who with. It's heart-breaking when they go, but I take comfort knowing they are going to a good place.
Despite being hard, it is satisfying to see the babies reunited with their mums or moving on to their adoptive family who have been longing for them for so long.
I feel proud of the work that I have done in getting them ready to return as happy, confident little people.
If you are considering becoming a foster parent or would like more information about providing foster care, visit newham.gov.uk/fostering or call 0800 0130 393.