Dianne and Alister’s story fostering children with a disability
Foster carers are needed across Victoria to care for children with disabilities. Such care can be a significant commitment, but it is an incredibly rewarding journey.
It was several years ago when Dianne first became aware of children that needed a foster care placement through her work in disability support. Dianne and Alister hadn’t initially planned on becoming foster carers, but when they knew of children in need of placement, they put their hand up and haven’t looked back.
“We hadn’t planned on fostering at first, but we heard of children that needed a home to stay and I put my hand up to foster. Now on a number of different occasions, we have fostered children with disabilities.”
Being a carer for children with a disability
Dianne and her husband Alister, who live in Echuca, are now fostering with Njernda, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. Dianne knows well the need for more foster carers for children who have disabilities. She says you don’t need to know all the answers, you just need to care.
“Fostering children with disabilities is a time commitment, but you don’t have to have it all together, you just need to have an open heart. If you have got the love and the time to give to a child who needs it, then give fostering a child with disabilities a go.”
“It’s a real team effort. Depending on the child and disability, there are a lot of meetings and people providing support including speech therapists, occupational therapists, physios and regular case manager meetings.”
Dianne and Alister have now taken on a young boy with complex disabilities. Whilst it was initially meant to be short-term, they realised he needed a longer-term home and are happy to have him as long as he needs care.
“Our hearts are full because of fostering. We have so much love for the children in our care and they give so much love back. We feel very blessed. My favourite thing is seeing him happy and seeing him smile. Knowing that he is safe and loved.”
It's important for carers to help children remain connected to their family while they spend time in care. Dianne and Alister have photos of his family decorated across his bedroom. Each night before bed they look up at the photographs and talk about his family.
Advice for people thinking about fostering
Dianne has plenty of advice for people who are thinking about fostering children with disabilities themselves, noting that no one is expected to know everything.
“Read up about their disability as much as you can and connect with other people who are going through the same thing. I joined a Facebook group and it’s been great to meet and learn from other people who are caring for children with similar disabilities.”
“Each child and disability are unique, and they all respond to things differently. It’s about getting to know each child and what makes them different – what makes them happy? What are their interests?” says Dianne.
Support from their agency
When you become a foster carer, your foster care agency supports you every step of the way. This has certainly been the case for Dianne, who has a great relationship with her foster care agency.
“Our foster care agency Njernda has been a great support and our case manager is brilliant. I can ring up at any time and get help. They are always available, and they are really supportive. For full-time foster carers, respite is available and it’s important to take a break when you need it.”
Interested in becoming a foster carer?
Foster carers are needed across Victoria who can create safe and stable homes for children who cannot live with their family. If you are interested in giving fostering a go, learn more about the process by giving us a call on 1800 013 088 or enquire online.