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Meet Gerlin

My first placement was a child and parent placement with triplets! People don’t often think of fostering in this way, but I have done many parent and child placements over the years and find them to be incredibly rewarding. The mum of the triplets had visited several foster carers before choosing me to support her, so I felt very honoured to be able to help.

I have been a foster carer for just over 17 years now. I was a young mum myself and came from what used to be called a ‘broken’ family. I felt that I had got such a lot to give others and that’s what gave me the desire to become a foster carer.

My first placement was a child and parent placement with triplets! People don’t often think of fostering in this way, but I have done many parent and child placements over the years and find them to be incredibly rewarding. The mum of the triplets had visited several foster carers before choosing me to support her, so I felt very honoured to be able to help.

When I’d heard that the babies had been born, I went off to the hospital to collect them all. Part of me was so excited and another part of me was thinking “What are you doing?!”

The babies were so tiny. I could hold all 3 of them in my arms. The mum depended on me a lot to begin with during her time here. One of the babies became ill and needed an operation, which it was found he had a hole in his heart and reflux. This was incredibly difficult at the time as the baby had to be fed through and intravenous tube, something that mum really did struggle with.

However, with all parent and child placements, it’s so important that you don’t take over. You must always step back and respect that they are the mum. You are there to support, give advice and prepare them for assessment to ultimately live independently with their babies. This mum and her babies spent 8 months in total with me and I’m delighted to say that she passed her assessment with flying colours. It was so rewarding to see her go on to nurture her children independently and know that I’d helped to make that happen.

Parent and child placements can be very intense, as there are sometimes mental health issues and there can also be flight risk concerns. In those cases, you have to be there 24/7 and plan everything, like going shopping for example, well in advance.

You can’t really fully prepare though, as every single parent and child placement is so different. Sometimes they are very young parents and sometimes they are grown adults. The most important qualities to possess are patience, an open mind, and the ability to always remain respectful. You must remember that no one coming into foster care wants to be here. You have to give advice carefully and find the right time when the parent will be open to receiving that advice, otherwise they will not hear you. Jumping in as and when you see something that you’d like to give your advice on isn’t always the right time. Being aware of that and reading the room in that sense is essential for a successful outcome.

Whilst being able to help is incredibly rewarding, at the same time you can only really give the advice in the absolute best way that you can. It unfortunately isn’t always taken on board and that can be quite heart-wrenching.

I took a couple of years away from fostering due to family commitments a while ago. My first parent and child placement after that was very difficult. After spending some time with them both, I could tell that there was something medically wrong with the baby. It was later confirmed that the baby had GM1 Gangliosidosis which is an inherited disorder that progressively destroys nerve cells (neutrons) in the brain and spinal cord. The baby very sadly passed away which was just devastating.

I’m still in touch with the mum and she is always incredibly thankful that I took the time to see that she was always doing her best. I have continued to advocate for her on other occasions going forward too. People don’t always realise that advocating is such a huge and important part of fostering, no matter the type of placement. Everyone going through foster care is in a vulnerable position.

The absolute best thing about fostering is knowing that you are making such a big difference to people’s lives.

To anyone considering fostering...

...I would say if you have the heart, the time and room, then go for it. There are so many children in need of a stable, happy, and safe home.

I have always been really happy at Capstone Foster Care as a fostering agency; they are 100% great. The training is very good and up to date. Even in lockdown we had fantastic training. The support you receive, and the peer groups are brilliant too.

Thank you to Gerlin for sharing her fostering journey so far. Could you help foster a parent and child to support them towards independence? As Gerlin says, it’s not the first type of placement that springs to mind when you think about fostering, however it can be incredibly rewarding. If you have a space in your heart and your home, don’t hesitate to get in touch to talk about becoming a foster carer.     

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