We're going back into offering Parent and Child. Shows how long we've been off the list for that, when we did it it was called Mother and Baby. It's not called that any more because a) sometimes (admittedly rarely) it's the father who is bringing up the child alone and b) the child is sometimes older than a baby.
But usually it's the mother and her baby, often virtually newborn; in fact our last one was allocated to us before the baby was born and we got to say hello to the little girl the day she was born.
I say; 'We're going back into Parent and Child' because we opted out of it a while ago because it didn't fit the household we had at the time..and because it's hard.
There are foster parents who specialise in it, I know of one who does nothing else and I say maximum respect to them. It is HARD.
But very worthwhile if you can do it.
It's hard in the physical sense; hard work. The parent is needy; otherwise they could cope without being looked after. The very fact the parent is being fostered is an indication that they are likely to fall short, not just in how to look after their child, but in other respects. Maybe they make bad choices about friends and lifestyle, maybe their own family is a bad influence. So the adult half of the parent and child often needs more than just guidance in looking after the child, but guidance in looking after themselves.
Mostly the parents are very young. Too young to be encumbered with parenthood, but they went and did it. Whilst they always declare they want to bring the child up brilliantly, they also want to be out on the town on a Saturday night. Actually they want to be out on the town morning noon and night, keeping up with their friends, having a youthful blast.
Then there's the child. Usually a baby.
I sometimes get talking to young mums in the supermarket, I always ask how the baby is sleeping. Every so often one of them replies; "Oh he's great, he's asleep at seven every night and sleeps for twelve hours." I always whisper "Keep that to yourself sister, most mums would be so envious I'd fear for your safety".
Babies are the original HARD WORK.
There's only one thing in a house that's harder work than a baby, and that's somebody else's baby. Which is what you take on with Parent and Child.
Even if the parent can deal with the child's needs at 2.00am and 4.00am, it's unlikely you'll be able to sleep through a baby crying, or someone creeping downstairs with a nappy bag.
But we're going in again. Why? We were asked by Blue Sky. We've had some re-training (blimey I thought one thing that stayed the same the last 200,000 years was human babies, but Nooooo!)
For example, bottles may no longer be warmed in the micro. I used to shake it about after its 30 seconds warming because the hot spot thing was obvious, but some young mum didn't know and fed her baby a bottle that was half too hot and half too cold, so now we're all stuck with a micro ban, fair enough.
We used to be worried about a baby being warm enough, now the chief worry is the baby being cool enough, all good thinking. We've done the re-training.
None of this is the REALLY HARD stuff.
The REALLY hard stuff is that as the foster carer we have to make judgements and keep records on whether we think the parent is going to be able to keep the child or whether the child is better off being adopted, and I always found this bit of the job harrowing.
Thank God the final decision is taken by the professionals which is a relief. But we provide a large portion of the evidence. And while a lot of it is simple fact: "Parent continues to fail to recognise baby's different crying as a need for food/changing/cuddle. Often continues to finish a text conversation before responding to baby ". A lot of it is also gut. How do you explain in mere words that a mother is broadly not up to the world's most important job, namely mothering? Well, you don't, you simply record the facts, and they mount up.
And someone else makes the decision. Mind, you play your part, and if you're anything like me you're always hanging out for a happy ending. Maybe the parent losing the child to adoption is a happy ending. You never find out one way or the other.
Parent and Child fostering attracts an allowance of 150% the usual per placement recompense, which is welcome.
The carers I know who specialise in it tell me they appreciate the fact that each placement usually lasts a few months and they take a break, say a month off, to re-charge the batteries.
We won't be that lucky as we have ongoing ordinary placements in our homer as well.
Wish me luck.