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Inspirational foster mum urges others to consider supporting young parents and their newborns

An inspirational foster mum from East London, whose support and guidance is helping to create a better future for young parents and their babies, is celebrating Mother’s Day by encouraging other mums to consider passing on their parenting skills to others.

Pauline Griffiths specialises in parent and child fostering, which involves looking after a parent and their child with the aim of keeping them together as a family unit where possible and to help the parents develop the skills they need to look after their little ones. Pauline has helped nine vulnerable parents in her four years of fostering, her longest placement being nine months.

After a rewarding career as a community support officer with the MET police for 14 years, Pauline left her job to take on a new challenge. “I think I have always wanted to help people and make a difference,” she says, “so when I walked past a stall that was encouraging people to start fostering during work one day, I was completely inspired, and I knew it was something I wanted to do.”

Parent and child fostering was the first type of fostering offered to Pauline, and although it was something she hadn’t originally considered, she decided to try it and has never looked back. She said: “I wasn’t sure I wanted to foster young children at my age because I wasn’t sure I’d have the energy and I was worried they’d miss out. So, when I was told about fostering parents and their newborns, and being a mum myself, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to share my knowledge and parenting skills with the next generation of parents.”

Pauline fosters with Five Rivers Child Care, an independent fostering agency based in Romford. Through Five Rivers, Pauline has undertaken training in parent and child fostering, something there is a real shortage of across East London. Parent and child fostering is when mums or dads, and their babies live with a foster carer for a minimum of 12 weeks, sometimes longer, and aims to give them the skills they need to look after their baby and keep them together as a family unit.

Pauline said: “A lot of these mums have faced a lot of hardships through no fault of their own and have been dealt a bad hand in life. Some are survivors of abuse or recovering addicts and just need some guidance on how to get back on their feet and keep their families together. Each placement is different, and some mums do better than others and some, unfortunately, end up separated from their children, but even just helping one family stay together and knowing that I’ve helped them have a better life is enough for me.

“I’m a great listener, so I always make sure I’m there to listen and support and guide when I can. Being a mother myself means I’ve done it before, so I have first-hand experience in raising a child and it’s so rewarding to be able to share my learned skills with mothers who really need it.”

Pauline’s daughter, Nadine, was inspired by Pauline’s work as a foster carer and has also been fostering with Five Rivers for the last six months, caring for young children and babies on both long- and short-term placements. Nadine is at the beginning of her fostering journey and is currently taking on her first placement and loves making a difference in their lives, giving them a safe space to call home.

Pauline said: “I think seeing the positive impact I was making not only on the lives of the mothers but the lives of the babies, too, really inspired Nadine to do the same thing. I think we’re both just so determined to make a difference in the lives of those who really need it.”

Pauline helps the vulnerable parents in her care by teaching them how to change a nappy to bathing, general self-care, and household care. “The basic things that we think everyone knows how to do, like making a bed or washing clothes, a lot of these mums don’t know how to do because they’ve never really had the opportunity,” she says, “it’s my job to help them learn these skills so they can do this for themselves and their babies in the future.”

Pauline feels it’s essential to try and build a good relationship with the mothers she fosters so that they allow her to support them, working together to achieve a brighter future for mother and baby.

She said: “I still stay in touch with some of the mothers, one of which I had for six months, and we became really close. She struggled with substance abuse and had had a tough life but was one of the loveliest women I’ve ever met and was so determined to be better for herself and baby.

“Seeing her and her baby leave together as a family was just amazing. She gave me a card when she left that said she was leaving me not as a foster carer but as a friend, and I still have it. It’s things like that that keep me going, it really means the world to know they’re growing from strength to strength.”

Pauline is currently fostering an 18-year-old mother and her young baby, who’s been with her for three months, and is hopeful for their future. She said: “Mum is quiet and independent, but we’re building up that trust and we go for walks together and I take her shopping. I love taking care of her baby and getting involved when I can, which I think also helps mum feel more at ease and helps better her parenting skills.”

Commenting on Mother’s Day, Pauline said: “I don’t tend to do much with mums for Mother’s Day, as I understand it can be a difficult time for them. But I always acknowledge Mother’s Day when I’m speaking with them because they deserve to know they matter, and every day I will support them in becoming better mums so they and their babies can have a better future together.”

Gordon Chinchen, operations manager at Five Rivers Child Care said: “Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for young mothers who are not part of a traditional family unit and don’t have the same family support as others, but it’s amazing foster carers like Pauline who give them a safe place to call home for themselves and their babies and pave the way for a positive future.

“Parent and child foster carers are desperately needed in the Romford area, and Pauline’s story and the incredible impact she’s had on the lives of these young mums is proof of how truly rewarding a vocation fostering is.

“We’d love to hear from anyone who is interested in becoming a foster carer, whether this is to support young mums and their babies or for children and young people. We provide training and round-the-clock support to ensure you can provide the best care to those in need.”

People from all backgrounds and communities can be considered to become foster carers but they must be over 21 years of age. This includes single people, co-habiting people, people from the LGBT+ community and those living in rented accommodation. Each child must also have their own bedroom.

If you are interested in learning more about fostering, contact our carer enquiries team on: 03452 660 272
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