My foster son is honest, clever and funny, but he isn’t always able to express his feelings – so we’re trained to help him
I became a foster carer just over a year ago, aged 23. Working as an area manager in a supported living home for young adults with complex needs, I found that the higher up I went in my profession, the less personal involvement I had, and I really missed the hands-on element of caring. I had a friend who fostered, and I realised that fostering would enable me focus on one child and better meet their needs, as well as offering them a home and family environment.
When my husband and I were first approached about caring for our foster son, we were given a clear and honest account of his behaviour and difficulties – which was exactly what we needed.
His social worker was brilliant. She knew all about his history and circumstances, as well as the challenges that caring for him would present, but she had also really got to know him. She appreciated what a loving child he is and how rewarding caring for him could be. She was upfront with us about his violent behaviour, and we knew he sometimes bites and scratches. Having all that information helped us to decide that with our experience, skills and training, as well as a strong support network, we could offer him the care he needs.
People can have a rigid view of what children with complex needs are like. They don’t understand why a child might “act up”, which can be that they simply aren’t able to articulate what the problem is. They forget to treat these children as individuals.
As well as being parents, foster carers are professionals – we have been trained to look after the children in our care. We are also the people who spend the most time with them. Fostering a child with complex needs means we have to be our son’s advocates and ensure that he is always getting what he needs, because he isn’t able to do this for himself.
Being open-minded is crucial when you care for a child with complex needs. It’s really important to understand that you’re not there to change them but to help facilitate their growth and development. Things that might seem small in another child’s development are much more significant coming from a child with complex needs. My foster son is honest, clever and funny, but he isn’t always able to express his feelings; each developmental milestone is huge for him and incredibly rewarding for us. Caring for him has made more of a difference than I could ever have imagined, and I take so much pride in his achievements.
While fostering a child with complex needs won’t be right for everyone, there are a lot of misconceptions about how hard it is. Every child is different, and some children will always need some form of support. As a foster carer you can offer them crucial life skills and help them learn to manage their own behaviour, as well as offering a loving, supportive and understanding home.
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