Post Natal Depression and Foster Care

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Most women experience the baby blues shortly after giving birth but for some this
doesn’t go away. Instead it escalates itself into Post Natal Depression, an extremely
debilitating condition that can completely take the bottom out of your world. Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, local authorities must provide accommodation for children if requested by the parent. In circumstances where the
family is in crisis due to illness there should be temporary care placements available for children aged 0-18 years however due to funding these are hard to come by. Alan Fisher, Director of Care, of Supported Fostering Services, confirms that this has never really happened since the Act was set up and is letting our mothers down.

“Reality intruded right from the start however, and because of local authority budget pressures the threshold for accommodation effectively excluded this category of mothers. It is of course a very different matter if the mother\’s
depression was such that it placed the child at risk…..the parent agrees for the child to be placed with foster carers and works with social
services on a package of input to ensure the child\’s safety when she/he is reunited with mother”.

Post Natal Depression can strike any woman at any time within the first year after giving birth, however, it usually strikes within the first month. If you have it, you are not on your own as it happens to about 10-15% of women after giving birth. It is not known what causes it but some triggers are the immense hormonal change that the body experiences after birth, tiredness from lack of sleep and the stress that not only
comes from these but also from looking after a new born baby. New mothers that have suffered from depression prior to becoming pregnant appear to be more susceptible to Post Natal Depression as well as new mothers that have experienced a stressful pregnancy or birth and where there is a family history.

Becoming a mum for the first time can be a very daunting prospect. The shock of a new baby can be massive and can greatly increase your chances of having Post Natal Depression. Even if the baby is a second or third one there are adjustments to be made within the family that can be daunting and that the whole family have to accept. Don’t suffer alone. Post Natal Depression is an illness that affects many women and you are not the only one to have it. You shouldn’t feel ashamed to tell people and it is
definitely not your fault that you have it. It would be a great help to you to confide in
others and ensure that you have a support group of friends around you that you can talk to and ask for help. Far too many women suffer alone with this illness as people do not recognise it or know how to help. It isn’t like having a broken arm where you can see a plaster cast. With depression of any kind you can’t see the ‘hurt’ or ‘pain’. Telling people how you feel is the only way to get them to understand.

The symptoms for post natal depression are very similar to ‘normal’ depression, some of which are noted below;



*Feeling worthless

*Feeling lonely

*No interest in new baby or wanting to look after it

*Sleeping problems

*lack of motivation

*Feeling unable to cope

*Losing interest in sex

*Feeling overwhelmed with everything

In theory, Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 mothers with post natal depression should be able to ask for help and voluntarily place their babies in foster care to get a break until they are better. There are no time limits set upon the parent when a child is placed into voluntary foster care as they can be looked after for a matter of days, months or years, however, due to monetary constraints within the
system this is an option for mothers with post natal depression that has been taken away. Jackie Sanders from the Fostering Network confirms this and explains that unless your family are in dire straights and on the brink of self destruct then the fostering system isn’t able to fully carry out their duties that they could do, were they to have more funding.

Jacqui Mayflower, 54 from South Wales was placed into foster care at the age of 6 when her mother gave birth to a baby girl and post natal depression reared its ugly head. Back in the 1950’s the stigma of having any kind of mental illness was such that it wasn’t discussed or even admitted to. Jacqui’s father and other family members constantly tried to hide her mothers post natal depression from others but when her mother lost too much weight and became so severely ill that she couldn’t even look
after herself the two girls were placed into foster care. Jacqui’s mother was given treatment and a course of electric shock therapy but as a result of her depression being so severe both Jacqui and her baby sister ended up living in foster care for 16 years. The two girls were kept together and both had regular visits with their father and they were taken to visit their mother on a regular basis.

Jacqui feels that more should have been done to help her mother and the family unit as a whole. Jacqui’s mother is now 77 years of age and although it’s been along time since the girls were small, she feels that her mother’s mental health has never got better. She also feels that more should be done for today’s mothers with post natal depression and foster carers. She has herself been fostering for six years and has
fostered a total of 23 children in that time with another one on its way. Like many others she is concerned with the limited number of people that the fostering system is helping and is also concerned about the way in which many of our countries foster carers are being looked after. There is no support system for them and no help with the children that they look after once they are in their homes. They have to rely on their own family network for help.

Surely the mothers and foster carers that are looking after our children and our future should be given more help and support than is currently being offered. Some how weneed to make sure that this gets better and that the number of women suffering diminishes and the number of foster carers increases. Post Natal Depression can take
along time to overcome and heal from. Below are some self help points that could help you on the road to recovery along with some contact details for support groups for post natal depression and fostering contact details.

*Do talk: Tell your health visitor and GP about how you are feeling. It can often be a relief to be diagnosed and know that there is help available for what you are experiencing. If you feel that you need a break away from the baby then ask. If you don’t ask nobody is going to know what you need.

*Do exercise: Try and get some exercise even if it is just a short walk around the block, you don’t have to go far. Swimming is also good as the water supports your body weight and the weight of any aching limbs.

*Don’t diet: Don’t go on any crash diets or starve yourself of food for any long periods of time, your body needs fuel from food to keep you going. If you find that you have lost your appetite keep some cheese, fruit, vegetables and bread in the house for snacking on. This way your body will still get the nutrients that it needs if you can’t face big meals.

*Don’t make major decisions: Don’t make any major decisions such as moving house, if you can help it. Try and put such things off until you are feeling a bit better and can easily give the time and concentration that is need on them.

*Don’t be too hard on yourself: Don’t be too hard on yourself. Lots of women suffer from post natal depression and you are NOT the only one to feel the way you do. Suffering from this illness does NOT mean that you are a bad mother. By feeling like this you are NOT letting anyone down and those close to you will want to try and help you get better. Make sure you look after yourself and if something doesn’t get done, there is always tomorrow. DO NOT feel ashamed of
not coping and needing help—it is a good thing to ask for help, but not asking will delay you getting better.

Association for Post Natal Illness Tel-0207 386 0868
offers support to mums with Post Natal Depression

MAMA (meet a mum association Tel-01525 217064
offers information, one-to-one and support groups
National Childbirth Trust Tel-0870 770 3236
offers support groups to women before and after birth and to depressed mums

Citizens Advice Bureau (the charity for your community)
Offers free legal help and support throughout the UK

Kindercare Fostering
An independent fostering agency that provides specialist fostering services.

Offers fostering care and short breaks for children away from the home

Fostering Network
Gives advice and information on becoming a foster carer, information on current foster carers and lists fostering services in
your area.

Claire Green

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