Fostering children with a disability
Children who have a disability have the same rights as other children and this includes to live in a safe and supportive environment. Foster carers play an important role in supporting children with a disability to thrive, alongside the child’s care team.
A disability can be physical, sensory, intellectual, cognitive or psychiatric and impacts a person’s ability to undertake daily activities. Having a disability is common and it is estimated that 18.4% of the Victorian population have some form of disability. Common disabilities among children can include vision impairment, deaf or hard of hearing, mental health conditions, intellectual disability, acquired brain injury or autism spectrum disorder.
A disability can occur at any time in life. People can be born with a disability or acquire a disability suddenly through an accident or illness. When a child with a disability enters foster care, placements include long-term, short-term, respite and emergency.
Who can foster children with a disability?
Foster carers who have the skills, knowledge and experience to look after a child with a disability or complex needs are greatly needed across Victoria.
People with relevant experience such as childcare workers, disability workers, medical staff, psychologists and experienced carers can make great foster carers for a child with a disability however anyone who is willing to learn and who can create a safe, consistent and supportive environment is encouraged to apply to foster children with disabilities.
Many of the attributes a person uses to support children without disabilities are the same for children with disabilities. This includes being patient, open-minded and empathetic. However, fostering children with disabilities also requires the carer to have extra vigilance for safety, good communication skills and be able to offer and/or access specialist care. Fostering a child with a disability is a hugely rewarding experience.
“There are so many people out there with different skills and experiences that would make great foster carers for children with a disability. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make a huge difference. If you are thinking about fostering, give it a go.” - Sarah and Matt, foster carers with MASP
How will you be supported to care for children with a disability?
As a foster carer, you are supported by your agency every step of the way. All prospective foster carers are provided with free training prior to becoming accredited. Once you become accredited, you will continue to receive ongoing training to help you support the children in your care. This can include training on attachment theory and developmental trauma, sign language and managing complex behaviour for children with disabilities.
Your foster care agency is on-hand 24 hours a day. At the beginning of a placement, your foster care agency will give you as much information as they are able to gather about the child’s disability and needs, and you will be assisted to make any modifications needed to your home that a child requires. You will also be helped to access to specialists such as psychologists and speech therapists and other medical appointments.
“Fostering is a real team effort and it’s great to be part of that team. Doctors, speech therapists, nurses, birth parents and the foster care agency all make up that team and work together with you to get the best outcome for that child.” - Meryl, foster carer with Anglicare Victoria
Every child and disability is different, but below are some tips for caring for children with disabilities.
Advice for caring for children with disabilities:
- Provide them repeated experiences of love, care, acceptance, and empathy
- Establish predictable routines and boundaries – consistent bedtimes/mealtimes, etc.
- Remember that each child and disability is unique – and so are their needs
- Remember to take care of yourself too and recognise when to ask for help
- Identify and lean on your support network – friends, family, colleagues on your agency
- National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
- NDIS and Out of Home Care
- Department of Families Fairness and Housing
- Raising Children – Disability
- Association for Children with a Disability
- Meryl's story fostering children with a disability
- Too Peas in a Podcast episode - Fostering children with a disability
The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing provides foster carers with financial support to cover the day-to-day expenses of caring for a child. Additional payments and reimbursements are also available for people caring for a child with a disability or a medical condition.
Find out more about carer allowances here.
Interested in becoming a foster carer?
All kinds of kids need all kinds of foster carers. If you think you can create a safe and supportive environment for a child or young person, then give fostering a go.
Give Fostering Connections a call on 1800 013 088 or enquire online.