0800 389 0143
Published on: 2018-05-08 09:00:00
What is your name and how long have you been fostering?
I'm Liz and I've been fostering with Nexus for a year and a half.
How many placements have you been involved with, and how many of these have involved caring for a child or young person with additional needs?
A week after my panel approval, I was offered the placement of a 12-year-old girl, G. She was described as bright but with global learning difficulties. Given my previous experience of teaching teenagers and supporting those with SEN (Special Educational Needs), I thought this would be a challenge I could meet as a 'newby'.
G turned up on my doorstep, beaming and quite excitable, and gave me a warm hug. We bonded that evening, while laughing over the antics of my cat. G has been with me ever since and has contributed greatly to my family who all admire her resilience and exuberant character.
Due to G's astonishing adaptability, with the support of my family, the placement has been going well and I now have her on a permanent basis. She has global learning disability and is emotionally young for her age, but I've managed to support her through constant help from Nexus Fostering, her school, and from her local authority social worker.
This support has been reinforced through regular meetings, strong communication and good working relationships.
What sort of challenges have you faced as specialist carers and how do you cope with them?
As the carer of a teenager with global learning difficulties, the most challenging thing I've experienced is the frustration of teaching G daily routines, hygiene, and social skills only for her to repeat past behaviours.
Nonetheless, when G shows improvements, even if that is remembering to clean her teeth without being told or learning to make a cup of tea safely, the sense of achievement is great. G is also highly impulsive and so extra care has to be taken to keep her safe, especially as she has a reduced awareness of social boundaries and her sense of ‘stranger danger’ can be weak, meaning she might hug people she's only just met or be inappropriately tactile with men.
Further, her peers have some freedom to roam and most own a mobile phone, but such independence would be too risky for G. This has made visiting friends or staying for sleepovers very difficult and sometimes impossible. Her friends may want to go out, for instance, despite knowing G's restrictions, and G will have no choice but to go along with it, when it is unsafe for her to do so.
This has been particularly frustrating for G, and for me, as she finds making and keeping friends difficult. I have helped her to overcome this through promoting her resilience, inviting friends for social activities, and extending her social opportunities while her school has provided her with socialisation skills training and pastoral support.
However, as G has matured, I am finding ways to offer small freedoms to develop her independence skills, as well as to improve her friendships, and my supervising social worker at Nexus has helped me greatly with this.
Foster care can be isolating without proper support. This is the case for me as a single carer, looking after a child like G, who has impulsive behaviour and developmental delay, as I've had to watch her constantly for unexpected and potentially hazardous behaviours. However, my daughter and son-in-law have offered valuable respite care, while my parents have looked after her for the odd hour when we've visited them.
It is vital for carers to have support from friends and family. Equally, it's essential to have back-up from the carers' and children’s support teams. Having a supportive network ensures that each child feels welcome and secure, while the Foster Carers receive child-care back-up, a chance to air issues and a shoulder to cry on if needed.
At Nexus, I've received great support as a single carer, particularly from my supervising social worker. I have also found the carer forums, where carers gather to share experiences and support an essential element in the fostering experience. I've learnt a great deal just by sharing experiences with other carers and I know that the local carers I've met at Nexus would offer help when needed. Nexus offers several forums a year, alongside numerous courses. The agency also provides fun outings for the children and young people in our care.
If you think you could support a child with additional needs, find your local office here.