I'm often asked why I chose to only foster babies, especially since I have so much prior experience with older children and teenagers. The full answer is long and rather complex and will probably form the subject of several future posts, but a recently published Ofsted report highlights very simply one of the reasons why babies are in need of special care.
Apparently, more than one third of serious case reviews between 2007 and 2010 concerned babies under the age of one.
This is staggering.
A serious case review is carried out in the event of the death or serious injury of a child. The fact that such a large proportion of these concern tiny babies demonstrates how vulnerable this age-group is.
In the first few weeks of a child's life it is likely that the only agencies involved with the family will be health-related - midwives, health visitors, etc. By the time a few missed appointments at the clinic are noticed and followed up, it may already be too late for a tiny infant.
Ofsted also notes the additional complication that some young mothers could themselves be identified as children in need and may not be receiving the support they need.
Far too often, fathers are virtually 'invisible' as far as professional agencies are concerned, and yet their influence on the child may be extreme. Professionals may be having contact with the mother and child through scheduled appointments, but may never have a chance even to meet the other parent. Ofsted highlights a case where a 3-week-old child left in the care of its father became ill and died just a few days later. The child's grandparents had previously tried to alert social services regarding their concerns about the father.
Babies are helpless and fragile. Seemingly minor occurences can quickly become potentially life-threatening. While social services struggle to balance the need to protect children against the fear of intervening unnecessarily, these tiny ones may be slipping through the net.