Could You Care for a Disabled Foster Child?

Children who end up in foster care may have experienced severe trauma. This could take the form of neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and/or sexual abuse, as well as witnessing someone else, e.g., the child’s mother, being abused. These past events can frequently result in challenging behaviour. When the child is disabled, this can make matters more complex.

In the UK, disabled children may have mobility problems (46%), mental health conditions (29%), learning disabilities (11%), hearing impairment (10%), issues with vision (10%), and more. Bear in mind that a child may have more than one type of disability.

If you are considering becoming a foster parent, you may wish to help children who need it the most. Disabled foster children have exceptional needs and require exceptional foster parents. Do you see yourself in this role? We look at the challenges involved to help you decide if you are suited to undertaking this level of care.

Dealing with the Challenges of Fostering

Whether you foster a child with or without disabilities, many foster children have been exposed to trauma. This will cause them to act out at times. Additionally, they have to get used to a new home, foster parents, and possibly foster siblings too. Here are some guidelines for coping with inappropriate behaviour.

First and foremost, remind yourself that you took on this challenge to give a child in need the best chance at a better life. These children had no choice in the circumstances that led to them winding up in foster care. Some of them may have been through several foster placements before being placed with you. There may be resentment at their fate that is directed towards their foster families. Don’t expect them to transform overnight into well-balanced, happy youngsters with a positive outlook. It will take time and patience to turn things around. Appreciate the steps forward and don’t lose hope. In the long run, your efforts will bear fruit.

Attend all the training that is offered by the foster care services you are registered with. This will provide you with the practical skills you need. You will also have access to other foster parents and be able to give and receive advice. Make use of all the resources offered.

Remain open to your foster children and provide a safe space for the expression of emotions. Remember that negative outbursts are not aimed at you.

Caring for a Physically Disabled Child

A child may be born physically disabled or become disabled after being involved in an accident or due to a health condition. There are practical aspects to caring for the physically disabled child. Special equipment, such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, and diapers, may be required. There will be visits to the family doctor and appropriate specialists. Foster parents are usually compensated for these expenses and directed to helpful resources. Speak to your fostering agency for more information.

If you have taken in a foster child for the long term, this will probably mean caring for them until they reach the age of independence. Depending on the severity of their condition, they may then be transferred to an adult care facility for the disabled. However, many people with disabilities end up being fairly independent. Each case is different.

Learn everything you can about your foster child’s disability. For example, if a child is hearing impaired, they will also need to learn sign language. If the child is still young, you may well be learning together.

You will need reserves of stamina as your foster child may continue to need bed baths, diaper changes, and feeding. A cheerful and encouraging disposition in a stable home will help make your foster child feel loved and wanted.

Caring for a Mentally Disabled Child

Every child has their own strengths and weaknesses, regardless of whether they are disabled or not. Experts advise focusing on their abilities and helping them reach their full potential. Become knowledgeable on the milestones a child must reach. These may still be achieved, even if they are delayed. Government organisations are useful sources of information on how to maximize development at each stage, such as fine and gross motor skills. There are many resources today for every stage and type of learning, including educational toys and activities. Work from the level the child is at, and not from their chronological age.

Learning is supported by schools for children with special needs. Although you will remain the primary caregiver, other people will also play a role, such as the child’s social worker, occupational therapist, and medical team. Ideally, there should be one person who oversees the team in making sure that the child gets the right medicines and follow-up care. This could be you so make sure you understand the results of tests and the right treatment regime to follow. Don’t overlook that a hearing-impaired child, for example, will still need eye tests and dentistry care, just as any child does.

Eventually, the smiles will outweigh the tears. You will be rewarded by the close bond you have formed, and your foster child will be ready to lead a full and satisfying life according to their abilities.

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