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Disability History Month 2022: Specialist foster carers needed for disabled children

We spoke with Jackie, a foster carer who cares for children with complex and developmental needs about the life-saving care she gives Lewisham children.

Before becoming a foster carer, Jackie worked in palliative care with adults and was a health care assistance. Her medical background meant that she was well placedA woman sits smiling at a table with a little girl who has Down's Syndrome. The little girl is breaking a gingerbread biscuit which is being held up to the camera to care for disabled children with complex needs. 

“Many of the foster carers I know who specialise in caring for children with complex needs are either fully qualified nurses or from a health care background. Having medical knowledge really helps as I frequently support medical staff to know my child, doing things like helping them find veins or insert a feeding tube.

“I was motivated to use my healthcare background to provide a home for a child that the local authority would otherwise have a difficult time placing. It also allowed me to achieve a better work-life balance as much of my work now happens in my home. Foster carers like me that specialise in caring for children with complex needs are few and far between, which is why we need more nurses and care workers to consider fostering.”

Becoming a foster carer for children with complex needs meant that she would work in an environment where she could make sure she was with her patients and knew what care they were getting at all times.

Jackie’s first placement was a three-year-old girl. “When she was placed with me, I was told her health had declined so much that she would only live another year.”

Under Jackie’s care, this girl beat the odds and lived on for another 12 years.

“If I hadn't become her foster carer, she would have spent the rest of her life in a hospital bed. A child deserves a family home. I adapted my home to be like a mini hospital and made the house fully wheelchair accessible. 

“My children have very profound disabilities and require significant care. There is no half measure. My life's going from hospital to the physio to occupational therapists. Medical professionals and children’s social care work with you to create a bespoke care plan for each individual child to fit their needs.

“In terms of my own wellbeing, I am very lucky to have the support from my family working as a team. My children go to school and during that time I can take some time for myself to reset.

“I take pride in fighting for my children. There is nothing like seeing your little one beating the odds. The more work you put in the better chance these children have.”

Lewisham Council offers all foster carers competitive allowances, support and training. There are a range of different fostering options from short-term, emergency placements to long-term, permanent placements, and social workers speak with potential carers to see what works for their lives and families.

Most importantly, Lewisham foster carers are part of a community made up of truly passionate, caring and experienced social workers and carers who are making a real difference in their local community.

If you think you could make a difference in a child’s life contact Lewisham Council for an informal discussion on 0800 015 0129, email fosteringrecruitment@lewisham.gov.uk or visit our web pages to find out more about fostering.

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