Caring for a child with special needs - Sara's story

For anyone who is thinking about being a foster carer the question of whether they would be willing to look after a child with significant special needs is a question they will have to grapple with. For some it will be an easy answer – they may have experience with their birth children or in the workplace of working with children with special needs; but for others it will take more thinking through. What is clear is that with the number of children who need a foster family growing – around 70 per cent of whom have special needs - and with the increasing need for more foster families (The Fostering Network has released figures reporting that 9,070 new foster families are needed in 2016), the question of whether or not a prospective foster carer feels they have the skills and qualities needed to look after a child with special needs is becoming ever more important.

Sara's story

Sara, from Lichfield, and her family had to make this decision several years ago when they became foster carers. For them it was a relatively easy choice given their experience of caring for a daughter with special needs:

'Our late daughter had a severe disability and all that she had taught us had left us with a unique skill set that we knew could be used to care for others. Fully adapted home, fully adapted lives and fully adapted hearts. We were surprised to find how great the need was and is for carers like ourselves and now in our sixth year of fostering we can honestly say we haven't regretted our decision once.

'Of course there has been days where we just wish we could slow down a little and nights where we have craved for a little more sleep but our job has offered us so much. Our diaries are full of appointments and we have become knowledgeable in more medical conditions than we can spell, but we love every minute of it.

'I would never say it's easy but it's so rewarding. 

'You don’t have to have a background in disabilities; most fostering services are willing to train carers in all they need. What you do need is the ability to advocate strongly. All children need you to speak up for them, to allow their voices to be heard, but this is paramount for children with disabilities. We need to advocate to get the best medical input, equipment and support.

'We became foster carers to offer love to children who needed it but also to help children reach their full potential. Nothing changes with children with disabilities. The targets may be different but the goal to live life to the maximum still stays the same. 

Watching a child find their way in this world is one the greatest gifts you can give to them but also yourselves.'

Could you foster?

As Sara says, becoming a foster carer for a child with special needs can be incredibly rewarding. You may not have specific experience of working in that field, but if you have love, resilience, a sense of humour and the ability to provide a welcoming home where a child can feel secure and safe, then you could make an excellent foster carer. It is vital that a child going in to foster care is correctly matched with a suitable foster family, so having a range of families with diverse experience and skills is becoming ever more important. A well matched fostering placement can see a child live and thrive with one foster carer over many years.

Of course, not all fostered children and young people have the complex needs of the children that Sara's family have cared for, but all are individuals in need of support to help them develop and thrive. A wider pool of foster carers with the right skills and qualities would make it more likely that the right homes can be found for children first time, giving them the best chance of a happy childhood and a successful future. Good foster carers can transform children’s lives.

The theme for this year’s Foster Care Fortnight is Time to Foster, Time to Care. Please take the time to consider whether now could be time for you to foster.  Maybe now is the time to use the skills and qualities you possess to change a young person’s life for ever.

Find out more about becoming a foster carer by visiting


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