Fostering children with disabilities is a chance to make a real difference in the lives of others, but did you know that many people shy away from this area of care because they don’t feel up to the task? Here Director Urs Bielmann explores why this is, and why those who may be thinking about fostering should consider children with disabilities.
Why do so many fostering applicants fear disability? Over many years I have spoken to many people who feel, for one reason or another, that they don’t have the experience to foster a child with disabilities.
Exposure to disabilities
I often wonder why it is that we have such limited exposure to disability, unless we experience it via a family member or in our employment. I learned nothing about disability from school. There were no subjects on the social understanding of disability issues. It simply wasn’t part of the academic race we were all running. Looking back, I guess it wasn’t something that was thought necessary for us to know about. But how can we interact with disability if we don’t have exposure to it? Do segregated special needs schools and mainstream schools have something to do with this?
Working with disabilities
I remember my first day working at a disability respite provision. There were sights and sounds I had not experienced before, or at least not in ‘real life’. I was soon to realise that what I was hearing was excitement and play. Even without prior experience of disability I was soon mixing in, feeling comfortable, interacting, helping, supporting. Some of the children as you would expect needed a lot of care, but they were, fundamentally children. They had the same needs, the same smile on their faces, the same vivacious approach to life that if we remember back far enough we might remember of ourselves.
Why then, when local authorities try to find placements for disabled children, are there so few carers to choose from? One of our aims is to help people recognise that there is a genuine need for foster carers for children with disabilities, to help them understand what disability is, and to hopefully help them understand that you don’t need to be ‘special’ to care for a child with disabilities, you just need to have the commitment and the desire to change lives.
Fostering for children with disabilities
UK Fostering is not the only fostering organisation to try and meet this need in the UK. This has been a challenge to providers for many years. Perhaps more debate and conversation around the topic and greater exposure through social media will make a concerted difference. UK Fostering is on a mission to identify carers for those children who are often overlooked. Could you foster a child with disability? It could be time for a rethink.