Your baby coos and giggles as you hold her snug and close to you. You wrap her in a blanket, pick her up and snuggle away. She’s cozy, comfy and feeling the love. But, what happens when mum’s not there to provide the cuddles?
Newborn babies who are waiting to be adopted need the care and love that your baby gets too. Right? So, who provides this? A number of adoption agencies in the U.S. are seeking out volunteer “baby cuddlers” to keep the newborns feeling loved as they wait for their forever homes.
Who doesn’t adore snuggling with those sweet-smelling precious little ones? And, what mum (or anyone for that matter) wouldn’t want to be a volunteer infant cuddler?
Okay, so the ‘official’ title isn’t exactly “baby cuddler.” In reality, these adoption centre volunteers are called Interim Care Providers. When the headline “Baby Cuddlers Wanted” hit the Internet, floods of want-to-be snugglers perked up. The media buzz on adoptive baby cuddlers would make it seem as though agencies were recruiting people to come in, pick up and cuddle baby after baby. This is far from the truth.
According to the US’s Spence-Chapin agency, Interim Care Providers, “Care for a newborn baby in their homes under the guidance and supervision of Spence-Chapin staff.” The volunteer provider is charged with giving the awaiting-adoption newborn a safe space to live and grow in until official placement happens. This may mean that the Interim Care Provider has the infant for a few days or even a few weeks. Hmm, sounds pretty far from a simple cuddle. Associate director of outreach for Spence-Chapin told Today Parents that the program is, “not a cuddling program.”
The volunteers aren’t just cuddlers. They are big-time caregivers who provide everything from feedings and nappy changes to nighttime lullabies and kisses. They document milestones, and take the infants to medical appointments.
If this sounds like foster care, it isn’t. This isn’t a permanent or semi-permanent placement. Instead, it’s temporary care that ensures those first few days of the baby’s life are filled with hugs, cuddles and everything else the baby needs. Individual agencies recruit, review and accept their own volunteer care providers. Spence-Chapin volunteers attend training sessions that the organisation provides – which isn’t the case for foster parents (the process for fostering is much more in-depth, and not done by individual foster agencies).
Why do adoption agencies need this type of program? Even though some babies are ready to go directly to their adoptive parents after they leave the hospital, others don’t have such as sure future. Some biological parents haven’t finalised their adoption plans at the time of birth. Instead of going home with the biological mum, the Interim Care Provider offers non-permanent care during this in-between period. The biological parents can (and are encouraged) to see the children during this interim time. In some cases the biological mum (or dad) decides to parent, instead of choosing adoption.
Even though the ‘cuddler’ buzz isn’t exactly what it seems to be, some US adoption agencies do actually have programs that are less interim caregiver and more shirt-term snuggler. Evanston, Illinois’ The Cradle operates an on-site nursery. This agency does actively recruit volunteers for their “Cradle Cuddler” program. Unlike Spence-Chapin’s Interim Care Provider program, The Cradle’s is shift-based and does not allow volunteers to care for the infants in their own homes. Cradle Cuddlers volunteer for two hours at a time, holding, feeding and comforting babies in the agency’s nursery.
Before buying into the buzz surrounding ‘baby cuddlers’ (or running out to find a volunteer job as one), check out the real story at the individual agencies. Even though some) such as The Cradle) do have genuine cuddlers, others (such as the much-talked-about Spence-Chapin) need volunteers who have much more to give than a simple snuggle.