What are your names and how long have you been fostering?
We are Debbie and Eric and we have been fostering since 2011.
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.
We have had 6 placements – 3 for just over two years and a current sibling group of 3 who have been with us for 4 years now.
Two of our current placements have learning disabilities (one also with behavioural issues) sufficient to warrant Education Health and Care Plans and Special Educational Needs support in school and another placement where we hope the support we are putting in place now will mean that she can go into mainstream school.
Have Nexus Fostering provided you with or supported you in any specialist training.
In addition to learning disabilities one of our placements is autistic and once has ADHD.
Nexus have put on courses to help us deal with these issues and also attachment theory training which plays a large part in the way these children present. They have also been present with us when we have attended the various professional meetings necessary to get the children the support they need. We have, over time, grown confident in dealing with the various authorities but at the beginning had had no experience in these areas and the support was welcome.
What sort of challenges have you faced as specialist carers and how do you cope with them.
We have had to learn about the education system and how to ensure it supports the children we look after.
Getting EHC Plans and places in specialist units at schools meant that we had to work closely with educational psychologists, CAMHs, the schools and other professionals.
We have had to become advocates for the children we look after. Often the history they come to us with is not a full history and as time goes by we realise the challenges these children face, and it is up to us to ensure they get all the support they can.
Dealing with children with behavioural issues can be very challenging at times and the support from Nexus and a very close working relationship with the school is necessary. You often surprise yourself as to how calmly and professionally you can deal with the most challenging situations.
What did you find most rewarding about fostering
Seeing children change when they have been with you for some time.
Our autistic child is a much more confident, calmer, and relaxed person since he came to us and has developed a real sense of humour that was not apparent at first.
What is your fondest memory from of your placements
Seeing two going onto adoption into a happy healthy home where they are thriving. It is a privilege that we are still able to stay in contact with them and their new family.
What is the main message you would like to get across to someone who is learning about fostering for the first time
Be open minded about what you are capable of. Things are often not what they seem at first sight – some placements are easier and settle quickly and others throw challenges at you that you did not expect.
It is always interesting and a learning curve, but never boring and when small changes do take place it is rewarding to know that you have played a major role in this change. You should also be realistic and not expect miracles to happen overnight but appreciate the changes as they happen.