It can be daunting offering to foster a child, but when the child comes with disabilities, it can seem like a step that is too big to take. However, with the support of a fostering agency, foster carers do go on to offer fantastic placements for a foster child with disabilities.
Can anyone foster?
If you are over the age of 21 and have a spare bedroom, you can apply to become a foster carer. You will need to be a British citizen or have been granted the right to live here permanently. These rules are no different whether you choose to foster a child with disabilities or not.
Do I need to be specially qualified for disability fostering?
Not necessarily. Foster carers who care for children with disabilities will start their fostering career with the same application process as all other foster carers.
You will attend an initial training session, usually a two-day course, and you will complete the same application pack, references and so on.
If you decide that you want to foster children with specific disabilities, you can seek further training in this area.
Fostering agencies offer a range of ongoing training opportunities, as well as supporting their foster carers to seek training and qualifications from other institutions.
What kinds of disabilities do foster children have?
The definition of disability is wide and varied. It can be physical disabilities, as well as emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Autism, for example, is a life-long developmental disability that sees a child face difficulty in forming relationships, as well as communication. Some children display a deeper level of autism than others, and this means a foster carer needs to be prepared as to how they can help their foster child.
Learning difficulties can also be a disability, as well as complex medical conditions that may mean you have to become adept and giving medication. Personal care may also be something you may do for the foster child.
What skills do I need?
Some disability fostering skills can be taught but others are attributes and skills that we may already hold within ourselves.
Foster carers who look after children with disabilities say that to do so successfully, you need;
- Plenty of patience
- Heaps of understanding
- A good sense of humour
- Be extra vigilant around safety
- Be open-minded
- An excellent communicator
- Be able to learn quickly
- Advocate on behalf of your foster child with disabilities you are caring for
It can seem daunting, offering to look after a child with disabilities but many foster carers say that by doing so, they have had a whole new world opened to them. And this shared experience can only be a good thing!
What support will I get when fostering a child with disabilities?
Fostering agencies understand that to look after a child with disabilities can be challenging.
For example, learning to instil patterns of appropriate behaviour with a child with autism can take a long time with many setbacks along the way.
Caring for a child with physical disabilities can also be physically tiring for the foster carer too.
Likewise, learning to advocate on behalf of your looked after child takes practice, with foster carers finding that many doors shut before they get to them.
Foster carers who look after children or young people with disabilities will have a range of support options open to them with FCA, and these can include enhanced financial support as well as 24/7 support at the end of the phone, as well as planned respite breaks.
Disability fostering can mean long term, short term or respite placements as well as short break schemes, all of which are in high demand. Could you offer a child with disabilities a home?
Fostering People is looking for foster carers with a set of skills and abilities to look after foster children and young people, including children with disabilities. Why not find out more?
** This is a guest post **