‘I do not think we would have been able to parent as well as we did without this additional support’ – Care Leaver (18)
If you are a care leaver who is pregnant, preparing to become a parent or with a child or children, we will support you and your child, as the Corporate Grandparent
- support you do the best for your child and help you arrange childcare, if this is what you want
- take an interest in your child
- help you find support
- help you make links with other young parents – such as Somerset Young parents
Your Personal Adviser will work with you to help you with the different important areas of your life, as well as helping you develop skills to be a good parent.
They will also help you get advice about help with childcare, benefits and any grants you may be entitled to – for example, Sure Start maternity grant if you are on a low income)
You could be eligible for help and support with childcare costs under the government’s childcare scheme.
More information about services for young parents in Somerset
At the beginning
Making a baby is the easy part but, becoming a parent will be the most important. It is rewarding but also the most difficult and stressful job you will ever have to do.
If your pregnancy is unplanned, it is important that you know you have options and choices about whether you wish to continue with your pregnancy. And you may want to ask yourself whether you are really ready to become a parent.
You must not feel pressured by other people to make any decisions you later regret.
Your Personal Adviser will be able to support you with whatever decision you choose to make.
Being a parent can be rewarding, but it takes skills and knowledge to do it well. As well as lots of love, most importantly, babies need a safe, stable and secure environment so that they can develop and grow into healthy and happy adults.
We know babies can be seriously affected by parents who argue, use drugs and alcohol, and parents with low mood and who have difficulties managing their emotions.
Babies can be expensive too and it is important you know how to manage your money well before they arrive.
Babies do not come with instruction booklets, which is why we want to make sure you have access to the right support and information for you to become the best parent you could ever wish to be.
Developing your parenting skills
As for any young parent in Somerset, you will become part of the Young Parent Programme and have access to a dedicated website.
The website provides information about keeping healthy and parenting advice before, during and after your pregnancy, and as your child develops. The website is for mums and dads.
We know building trusting relationships with professionals early on also helps new parents develop skills, knowledge and confidence.
Your Young Parent Health Visitor and Specialist Midwife will provide you with additional support from when your pregnancy is confirmed.
You can have access to lots of important information and professionals during your pregnancy, and after your baby is born.
Before your baby arrives, you and your partner can also access a small group for Young Parents called ‘Bump, Baby & Me.
This pre-natal group will give you some important information; such as baby first aid, delivery, bathing and health for you and your baby.
The group is run in each area by your Health Visitor, Midwife and Young Parent getset worker. And it helps prevent isolation.
All Care Leavers who have attended this group believe they felt more confident and prepared for when their baby arrived.
If you need support to access this group, speak to your Personal Adviser.
After the birth, you can have your baby weighed, learn new skills or just have a chat with other new mums and dads. Each week is a different topic – budgeting for healthy foods, baby massage, relationships, footprint momentos and play.
You can also attend this group before your baby is born.
‘Attending the group has been my lifeline and I’d be lost without it now’, Care Leaver and single parent (aged 21).
If you need support about joining this group, please speak to your Personal Adviser.
You may also benefit from a professional who can give extra support for specific areas to help you parent well, like routines and play.
Speak to your Personal Adviser or Health Visitor, who can make a referral for you.
We can also get lifelike practice dolls (without batteries) which you can borrow when you are pregnant to develop your (and your partner’s) confidence and practical parenting skills – holding, dressing and bathing (babies are slippery when wet).
Speak to your Personal Adviser if you would like to borrow one.
To protect them from harm, babies need a home which is clean, organised and safe. Living in a home which is dirty and untidy can lead to your baby becoming seriously harmed physically (choking, falling, poisoned) and emotionally (neglect).
To make sure your home is safe for a young family, you can get safety checks done by The Fire Service. They are available for any new parent in Somerset.
The checks can include providing stair gates, cupboard locks, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and general safety advice. Your Health Visitor will discuss this with you and they will make a referral for a safety check that can be carried out either just before or after your baby is born.
If your housing is not suitable for a baby (such as shared housing) it is important you speak to your Personal Adviser as soon as possible to talk through your options.
Using drugs or alcohol can seriously affect how your baby’s brain develops when growing inside you and can continue to affect them for the rest of their life.
Drinking alcohol or using drugs when you are pregnant can also lead to your baby having physical deformities. Because of this, it is extremely important that you ask for support from your Personal Adviser as soon as possible to reduce any effects this can have on your developing baby.
We know children are severely affected by parents who use drugs and alcohol. It can change how you respond to your baby, the bond between you both and your child’s safety and financial responsibilities.
Being a parent is stressful and if this is your only coping strategy, it is really important that you ask for support from your Personal Adviser or SDAS (Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service) as soon as possible. This will help you make sure you can be the best and safest parent you wish to be.
‘Seeing SDAS weekly helped me address my alcohol dependency so my baby wouldn’t be harmed growing inside me and now I don’t need it or want it’ (Care Leaver 20)
We know domestic abuse increases during pregnancy and soon after babies are born. From when you are pregnant until after your baby is born and growing up, they can and will be seriously affected by arguments, raised voices and seeing you become hurt. They can become physically hurt themselves in the ‘crossfire’ or when they are trying to protect you.
Even when your child is not in the room, hearing arguments will make them feel scared. If your partner is controlling with money, being possessive or not letting you see friends, family or professionals and taking or checking your phone, this is also abusive.
If they are hitting you or are hurting you in any way, this is abusive.
If they force you to have sex, this is abusive.
If you are worried about how your relationship will affect your baby, it is really important that you ask for support to make sure you and your baby are and can feel safe. Speak to your Personal Adviser as soon as possible to get the support you and your partner need to make sure you can be the best and safest parents you wish to be.
Care Leavers who have accessed support so that they can be parents safely have told us – ‘We didn’t realise how harmful our arguments were on our daughter as she was so little and sometimes in bed, but she was being affected and something we both feel very guilty about now’. With support from Leaving Care, we have now learnt how to communicate better so she won’t be affected by our behaviours and will grow up feeling safe in our care. Care Leavers (19).
If you are worried or not sure about your partner’s past and how this will affect your child, you can get information about their history from the police under ‘Sarah’s Law’ for sexual offences against children or ‘Claire’s Law’ domestic abuse history.
You can phone 101 and ask for this yourself or you can ask your Personal Adviser for their support.
Young People who have accessed support so that they can be parents safely have told us – ‘I wish I had known about his past earlier on, now I know why you were all so worried about me and my baby’ Care Leaver 20
You can also get support from SIDAS, who have specially trained young people advisors. They will not judge but help you to break the cycle of abuse, and you and your child won’t have to be scared anymore.
Young parents who have accessed this service have told us – ‘I was embarrassed and ashamed but (the worker) did not judge me. She made me understand what he was doing was abusive and I deserved much better. My child and I are safe now and I can’t thank (the worker) enough.’ Young parent 19.
Working with a social worker
Sometimes when you are pregnant or after your baby is born, an assessment from a social worker may have to be carried out by law.
This can be if there are worries about your relationship, if you have had a child removed previously or if you need extra support for everything to be safe.
Understandably, this will raise worries for you, but the assessment can be a positive experience and will explore what support you may need in much more depth so that you can become the best parent you wish to be.
The relationship you have with the social worker for your baby is a very important one and it is important you do not avoid them and are honest with them.
‘I was so scared social were going to take my baby away, but I now wish I had made more of an effort early on which would have led to less delays and worries about my ability to parent safely’. Care Leaver (20).
‘I do not think we would have been able to parent as well as we did without this additional support’ Care Leavers (18)
You can speak with the social worker, your Personal Adviser for more information or advice about the process, advocacy or working with a social worker for your child. Or you can visit a website specifically aimed at young parents.
The bond or attachment you have with your baby – and them with you – is the most important part of a baby’s emotional development and will influence them until they become an adult.
This bond develops while your baby is growing inside you and develops within the first 3 to 6 months after your baby is born. It is only when your baby has bonded with you first, can they bond with anyone else. You are their primary carer
It is important you talk to your bump or baby. This not only helps with the bonding but also helps with speech and emotional development as they grow.
Breastfeeding also helps with bonding – as well as after baby weight loss. And it has health benefits, with your baby receiving important nutrients and antibodies.
‘I was only planning on breastfeeding for a couple of days and wasn’t comfortable about it at all, however I persevered and now it’s the best thing I have ever done and has brought me closer to my baby and I now want to continue until she’s at least a year. As well as the weight loss, I don’t have the hassle of having to wash and make up bottles all the time and can feed on demand’ Care Leaver (20).
‘I wish now I had taken your advice and breastfed from the beginning as it would have been much easier and I would have lost my baby weight my quicker’. Care Leaver (18)
In Somerset we have an agreement with CarrymeKate who can provide free slings, which will not only help with bonding and breastfeeding but also allow you to have free arms (and no buggy) to get on with what you need to do. Speak to your Personal Adviser or Health Visitor who will make a referral for you to try out which one suits you best before or after your baby arrives.
More information about bonding and breastfeeding or you can speak to your Health Visitor.
Being pregnant and the change in hormones can be likely to affect your wellbeing at some point. If you have experienced low mood previously, this is likely to increase the chances of you experiencing low mood again during and after pregnancy.
Eating healthily and taking exercise will help. Learning how to manage your emotions is equally important. You can help achieve this by practising Mindfulness every day while you are pregnant. This will also help you manage your emotions after your baby is born.
Speak to your Personal Adviser or Health Visitor about how Mindfulness can work and the different apps available.
Babies can be stressful and tiring for any new parent. Lack of sleep can also add more pressures on you and your confidence, and these stresses can test the most experienced parents. If you are feeling low during your pregnancy or after your baby is born – as this can affect your baby too – it is extremely important you speak to your Personal Adviser, midwife, Health Visitor or doctor as soon as possible.
This will be the most important first step you take in feeling emotionally well again and you will not be judged for asking for support.
Getting advice and support will only be seen as a positive step forward, so you can become the best parent you wish to be.
Contraception and STIs
Having a sexual transmitted infection (STI) while you are pregnant can seriously affect your baby’s development, and they can also be born with the infection.
As part of your midwife’s appointment, routine STI checks will be carried out and treatment will be provided before your baby is born, so that you are both clear of infection.
Although you may think it’s too late or early to think about contraception, think again!.
When you have just had your baby you will become even more fertile. It is really important that you plan for this responsibly as part of your midwife meetings. You can have contraception implants fitted or other contraception prescribed even before you and your baby are discharged from hospital.
You can also arrange contraception through your doctor or SWISH (Somerset Wide Integrated Sexual Health) – phone 030 124 5010. Ask your Personal Adviser for support if you need it.
Budgeting is a life skill and once you have mastered it it will positively influence your whole future when you are managing your finances. As a parent it is even more important that you learn how to budget. This makes sure your essentials like rent, bills and food are covered.
Getting into debt will increase your stress levels and could lead to you losing your home. As a parent you need to make sure your child has a stable and secure home and their needs are being met.
Babies are expensive, but their needs can be met on a budget too. Second hand clothes and equipment are cheap – and sometimes free – and are usually of high quality because children grow out of them quickly. There are different organisations which may provide grants or the equipment you need. Speak to your Personal Advisor or your Health Visitor, they will know which local organisations may be able to help you.
Your benefits will increase when you have a baby and you will be entitled to extra amounts whether you are working or not (Child Benefit).
You will also receive £500 maternity grant just before your baby is born. Your midwife will give you a form (MatB) so that you can apply for this grant at 26 weeks of pregnancy.
If you are finding it difficult managing your finances, before you get into more debt or need advice about how to budget, speak to your Personal Adviser.
Or you can ask your local Citizen Advice. They are experienced in supporting people who are struggling with debt and you can find them in most larger towns in Somerset. Ask your Personal Adviser for your local office contact information. Citizens Advice information