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What is it like to be a mother and baby foster carer?

Meet Helen, a warm and dedicated foster carer who has been with Blackpool Council for more than 21 y...

Meet Helen, a warm and dedicated foster carer who has been with Blackpool Council for more than 21 years. During this time, Helen has fostered children and young people across a wide range of ages, and this includes looking after vulnerable mothers and their babies.

This type of foster care is where a parent lives with their child in a foster carer's home.

We catch up with Helen to find out about her rewarding but challenging role as a mother and baby foster carer.

How has your experience of fostering been with us?

I’ve fostered for over 21 years now so I’ve seen lots of babies, children and teenagers come and go and I still love it as much as ever. I grew up in a children’s home so I’ve always wanted to give back and help others. I have always loved looking after children.

How have you found being a mother and baby foster carer?

It’s not easy but it can be very rewarding. Like anything there’s ups and down but the ups outweigh the downs.

I’ve had six placements where I’ve looked after young mums and their babies. I’m still in touch with all of them – even the ones that had to move out without their babies – and I usually meet up with them for a coffee and some cake but Covid has stopped this during the last year. I’ve even been at the birth of one of the babies as the mum didn’t have anyone else. I was the first to hold the baby girl.

What’s it like to foster a mother and baby foster carer?

It can be challenging as you do need to be available 24 hours a day and this puts some people off but I really enjoy it. You have to be dedicated to do it.

I give the young mums lots of advice of how to look after their baby but you can’t tell them what to do. It’s all about advising the young mums to keep safe and keep the baby safe. My role is not to do it for them, but to help them do it themselves. You just have to make suggestions and approach them gently. I don’t make it condescending. After a week or so I soon grasp what they are like.

I am always really honest with the young mums right from the start. They know that I am there to guide them but I am also assessing them at the same time. I give them lots of advice but you can’t tell them what to do.

What’s the best thing about looking after a mum and her baby?

It’s amazing seeing them get on and develop their parenting skills. When they are unable to cope, it’s because they don’t have the instinct. They always really love the babies but sometimes it’s too much for them. But when they develop the skills and both mum and baby are happy then it’s brilliant. It’s lovely when they do everything they should do and move on to build an independent life.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to the baby when they are leaving and I always have a lump in my throat but I love every minute of it – apart from the goodbye bit!

What qualities do you need?

You need lots of patience and to be able to be understanding. Some of the stories that these girls tell you makes you realise why they need extra support. You have got to love them as some of them really need it and have never had a mum figure in their lives.

You have to be able to talk to the young mums but importantly, you have to be good at listening and taking in what they are telling you.

And Helen’s advice to someone considering fostering?

Do it! I will tell anyone to go for it. It’s a wonderful experience. I’d have two or three young mums and their babies in the house if I had the room. I’d love it!