Finding enough foster carers is proving hard. The effort has to be ongoing – the proof being the need for the Fostering Network’s annual campaign ‘Foster Care Fortnight’; just about to start on Monday 16th May and intended to boost awareness around fostering children. 9,070 new foster families are needed this year alone: the challenge becomes even more daunting when considering the ever present requirement to find carers to look after disabled children. Such youngsters are nine times more likely to become ‘looked after children’ than non-disabled children. Foster carers need to have an especial interest in taking care of disabled children as very obviously the demands faced are going to be greater. The love and care that needs to be given is going to a different, and the fostering experience is consequently going to be more intense. There will be many more routines to be observed – especially with regard to care and medication. Additional support is given with the provision of respite care in recognition of the unique burdens and pressures involved.
As we need these special people it is important that; particularly at this time of ‘austerity’, the climate of perceived cutbacks is challenged. The right signal needs to be sent, since any potential new foster carer – especially one who might be thinking of looking after a disabled child (a rare breed) – will probably thinking such care does not come cheap. And of course they would be right: it is often necessary to make structural changes to a home so that foster care becomes a practical proposition – a common example being the provision of a downstairs toilet. But there are many more hidden extra costs which can include heating, washing and cleaning.
Disability is, after all, a blanket term – more generally, there is a pressing need to find people with special qualities prepared to care for children and young people with less severe health issues. These can cover ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders, learning difficulties, hearing and/or visual impairments. Foster carers need to be motivated and dedicated to help a disabled child to reach their full potential. We need to think seriously how, as a nation, we create and sustain that motivation. It is of course about funding – setting this at the right level should be a given; but it is also about very publicly recognising and valuing that incredible spirit that makes someone decide to foster a child with disabilities.
Our Youth Participation Officer, Richard Carr, is organising an Education and Careers EXPO on 31st May 11am – 1pm to to take place for children who are 15+, carers and birth children are also more than welcome to come along.