We’ve all heard the early permanence success stories. Not only is it great for adopters who have their child in their care from the earliest possible opportunity but also for the child who doesn’t have to experience the secondary trauma of being separated from their foster carer. It’s not without its difficulties but more often than not, leads to successful outcomes for all involved. How great would it be if we could take it a step further and have the birth mothers live with us along with their babies? Sounds crazy right?! But hear me out..
We’ve been foster carers for a number of years now and we only do Mother and Baby Placements. It’s something we take great pride in, especially as there are so few foster carers willing to do it. A lot of foster carers find it hard to get their heads around having another adult living in their house or worry that they’ll be too challenging. If they gave it a go they’d find that these mothers are so grateful for the opportunity to stay with their babies and just want to prove that with a little support they can learn how to care for them properly.
We’ve had lots of happy endings and there’s no better feeling than seeing the results of your hard work pay off the day they get to go home together. That’s not where it ends though, they often have a long journey ahead of them with continued social services involvement but having built a trusting relationship with them we’re able to continue supporting them and watching their children grow – albeit from afar.
Our most recent placement came with the same struggles that many of our previous ones did. Krystle was a 24 year old mother with a 4 month old baby, some mental health issues, a little substance misuse and a lot of baby daddy problems.
It was slightly unusual as the baby wasn’t fresh from hospital but like many other mothers in this situation, Krystle had an older child who had been removed by social services due to neglect and this was her final chance to prove herself with this baby.
She ended up with us as an emergency placement after being in a physical altercation with her baby’s father. She’d returned to him time and time again after violent incidents and now she had to prove that she would stay away to keep her baby safe.
I spent all day every day with her for 2 months straight, it took no time at all to see that there were a lot of issues with her care of baby Tyler. We took it slow and implemented small changes each week and over time we started seeing improvements. We got to know her and her background very well, she opened up to us about her childhood and it was easy to see where a lot of her issues stemmed from. She told us about how she met baby Tyler’s father and we found out a lot about his family & background too. I also got to meet him when taking baby Tyler to the contact centre for supervised contact. We learnt so much about them both in that time that no social worker could even come close to the level of understanding we had of their circumstances.
When the time came for the final court hearing I was nervous for Krystle, she had managed to make some improvements however I knew she hadn’t come far enough. Reports from social workers and psychologists concluded that she wouldn’t be able to make all the changes needed within baby Tyler’s timescale. I too felt that this was likely true but also hoped that with a little more time we could get her closer to where she needed to be – then she might stand a chance of keeping him.
It was decided that baby Tyler would be removed from his mother’s care and placed for adoption, when Krystle returned from court she seemed calm and almost relieved. She said she knew that it would be too much for her to manage and that this was what was best for Baby Tyler. When she left our house, baby Tyler was playing in his playpen; it was so normal for Krystle to leave him with us when attending meetings and appointments that he didn’t even react when she left. We watched him closely over the days and weeks that followed, looking for any sign that he was missing her or struggling with not having her around. As harsh as this sounds it was as if he didn’t even notice. Looking back now we’d inadvertently had a 2 month transition period much like you would after matching in a regular adoption.
We established a good routine – something he didn’t have before. He became calm and comfortable in his safe and predictable environment. He started sleeping better, eating better and catching up with his developmental milestones. Social workers were shocked to see the transformation he made and there was lots of interest on Link Maker.
Before Krystle left she asked us to keep baby Tyler, she could see the wonderful bond that we had and although we loved having him around the thought never even crossed our minds. We had one goal, we would do everything we could to prepare him for his forever family.
Little did we know, she had spoken it into existence and 6 months later he became our son.