An early permanence story
We thought that as we had two of our own birth children that Early Permanence was not be something that we would be able to manage. It was our social worker who asked us to consider Early Permanence and explained the challenges. The training made it feel all the more possible for us and helped us understand the benefits for the child. Early Permanence is also beneficial to the baby as there are fewer moves and therefore less impact on attachment.
In our case, our child’s birth mum is young, she has been through the care system herself, and we felt nothing but empathy and sadness for her. We thought that taking the baby for contact and meeting up with her birth mum under supervised conditions was the right thing to do.
When a newborn baby comes into your home, it is the dream scenario but it was an anxious time. Our baby arrived with us on a Friday night, and spent the whole weekend with our family, trying to figure out this new little lady, practicing our story and what we were going to say when people asked.
All the way through the fostering process I had to keep telling myself, ‘she is not my daughter until she is my daughter’. For our boys, we had to verbalise all the time that we were just looking after her. We were telling them not to call her sister; we are not referring to ourselves as Mummy and Daddy. We kept reinforcing the fact that we are just looking after her.
Our child’s birth mum started to fight for her at quite a late stage. We still totally sympathised and empathised with her, and we struggled with the idea that somehow we were involved in a process that had removed a baby girl from her mother. I spoke to one of the panel advisors about my fears and they suggested that we looked at it in a different way. “Here we have a young mum who has issues and needs but her biggest concern is that she has a baby who she cannot care for, cannot look after and you are helping her with that.” Our role is to provide a loving home for a child who needs a home, and that is how I dealt with it.
If you do not have that conviction – that what you are doing is the best thing for the child, regardless of whether it is the best thing for you – then it would be extraordinarily hard. Early Permanence is not suitable for everyone. You may not consider it right for you at first, but if it broadens, your scope of children considered suitable for you then it’s definitely worthwhile. You will however definitely need some key qualities to help you along the way:
- Conviction that it is the right thing for the child, and the ability to empathise with the birth parents
- Try to get some experience of looking after a baby or young children, it will help to calm your nerves.
- A great support network makes a massive difference so that you can talk openly about your fears and feelings.
- You have to be aware that there are going to be difficult times ahead and you will sometimes feel out of control, and have faith that everything will work out for the best.
Without the support of our friends, family and community, I think it would have been impossible to go through such an unnerving time. Our faith and our friends were a constant reassurance to us and helped us hugely in times of uncertainty. Putting the child first and supporting whatever is in their best interest on a daily basis was the way we managed the whole process, step by step, day by day, with the support of our social worker.