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Sal and Keith’s story

Posted on: 27 June 2019

Have you ever considered becoming a child and parent foster carer? Read how Sal and Keith made the transition from mainstream fostering into offering specialist foster care and haven’t looked back.

In 2018 Sal and Keith had been fostering for Devon County Council for eight years. Their longest placed child Tom* had arrived aged 11, now turning 18 he was getting ready to fly the nest and head off to travel and work during the summer before starting university.

Sal and Keith were facing a dilemma, what should they do next? Sal in particular felt that maybe this was the time to change the direction of their journey, to set themselves a new challenge and to develop their skills further whilst still fostering.

The idea of specialising in child and parent fostering was put on the kitchen table one evening and was up for discussion between all family members.

A flurry of questions followed; could they even do it, did they have the necessary skills, was the house suitable, how would it fit in with their remaining foster child and their birth son, how would a baby and its parent fit in, what about the family pets?

Each question needed careful consideration, however one by one they worked through them together and decided that they were ready, as a family, to pursue the new challenges that child and parent fostering would bring.

Sal and Keith contacted the Child & Parent Assessment Team (CPAT) at Fostering Devon and an initial meeting with Kathy Houlihan, the manager, was arranged. After a successful meeting their Supervising Social Worker Matt was asked to support them on their new journey, completing a new Form F Assessment and taking them through to a fostering panel in September 2018.

It wasn’t just Sal and Keith who needed to prepare for the new specialist fostering that they were about to embark upon, their house had to undergo some changes to be able to accommodate a small family and enable them to live independently. They installed a new kitchen, living accommodation was prepared for a family to be able to live alongside Sal and Keith.

Child and parent foster carers support a parent and child to live together as normally as possible whilst the parent has their parenting skills assessed by a team made up of Assessing Social Workers, Specialist Family Practitioners, Health Visitors and Child Social Workers. The parent needs to be able to demonstrate their ability to take on advice, guidance and learn to change. An assessment is produced for final court hearings and decision-making meetings.

Sal and Keith are currently registered to take one parent and one child into their home at any one time. The stay is normally for between 12 and 15 weeks although this can be extended if necessary. Devon’s child and parent carers register to take either a single or both parents, one or two children, usually babies or possibly toddlers.

The foster carers are expected to keep a detailed daily log which covers all aspects of the parent’s abilities to care for and nurture their child, they need to be able to demonstrate positive changes whilst in the care of their fostering family. Review meetings are held to discuss how the parent is coping and Child in Care meetings are held for the babies with care orders.

So how has it been so far?

Despite the early mornings and late-night feeds, smelly nappies and crying babies, Sal and Keith feel it has been a good move for them. They have found that by working as a team and keeping their sense of humour and patience, child and parent fostering is extremely rewarding. Of course, there are times when it is intense, emotive and challenging. It’s most definitely been a steep learning curve for the couple, but they feel that the CPAT staff have been consistently supportive and always available to them.

There are bi-monthly support groups and CPAT training which has been invaluable. The concept of what is “good enough” parenting at times has been difficult to accept, but on balance they agree that the change in direction has been worth it.

Sal and Keith have been really encouraged by seeing the first young family in their care make big changes in their lives, they have been able to confidently support the parent to make significant enough changes to be able to go home with the baby.

It’s fostering right at the start of a young person’s life.

Fostering Devon encourages carers to gain experience in mainstream foster care before they become child and parent carers. There are exceptions where carers move straight into child and parent caring where they have suitable transferable skills, for example if they have previously been a mid-wife, health visitor or similar.

There are high expectations of child and parent carers, it is very much considered a career pathway. In return Fostering Devon offer comprehensive support and training alongside an extremely attractive financial package.

If you would like to find out more please call 0345 105 1077, if you already foster for Devon please speak to your Supervising Social Worker.

*Names of children have been changed.