There is still a huge demand for foster families and for people prepared to adopt children. You might, as a disabled person, think that taking on the care of a child isn’t something you’d be given the opportunity to do, but that simply isn’t the case.
People that haven’t done their homework on the subject can all too frequently settle for what they ‘think’ they know. Sadly, in the case of fostering and adoption this can mean that people that would make superb parents don’t give themselves the chance. People from all parts of Society can apply to adopt irrespective of their background, ethnicity, sexuality, employment status, married status or disability. As long as you can demonstrate an ability to care properly for a child, there are few obstacles standing between you and fostering and adoption.
Although fostering and adoption are slightly different (fostering is usually temporary and can represent the more ‘professional’ side of things, whereas adoption is a full, legal transfer of parental responsibilities and rights) the preparation is the same. (In fact, all adoptive parents spend time as foster parents before full adoption proceedings take place.)
Regular readers of Able Magazine will already know that our motto is ‘what disabled people can do, not what they can’t’ and this is certainly the case when we discuss fostering and adoption. Nerves and doubt are natural; the question of caring for another person is a big one, but disabled people have a great deal going for them.
Here are a few points that deserve consideration…
Growing up with a disability (or acquiring disability) isn’t easy. Nevertheless, people adapt and succeed, sometimes against steep odds. Suddenly, disabled people begin to look like the best role models to have in a child’s or young person’s life. In cases where disabled people foster or adopt disabled youngsters, the empathy and life experience that can be passed on, as well as the inspiration to succeed is invaluable. (Disabled children are amongst the children that struggle most to ﬁnd new foster or adoptive parents.)
It’s also worth immediately pointing out that fostering and adoption is never ‘plan A’. Children are taken into care for good reasons but it’s still a very painful process. Just like disability, the issues may not even be visible but they are there. Separation from parents is a huge thing for a young person to deal with and whilst you may not have experienced similar separation for yourself, you’ll probably have a good idea of what mental anguish feels like.
If you take on a disabled child, you’ll already have an edge on how your child will be able to achieve things, based on your own experience – an able bodied person might not have that knowledge to pass on.
Imagine the power of your own story in the eyes of a child or young person. Imagine them growing up in the full realisation that setbacks and challenges can be overcome.
Irrespective of whether the child you care for is disabled or not, having a disabled parent in the context of positive relationships demonstrates to children the importance of inclusivity and how to value difference.
There are hundreds of aspects to parenting and one of the most frequent is decisionmaking or problem-solving. Disabled people all know that problem-solving comes with the territory – great life-skills to pass on to any young person, disabled or not.
Clearly, where disabled children are adopted, there can be a necessary waiting time for their new parents to have adaptations applied to their home. In certain cases, adoptive parents may already have adaptations and other appropriate equipment to hand – and importantly, the knowhow to use it safely.
Being disabled does not automatically exclude people from fostering or adoption. All aspects of a person’s ability and character are considered in the preparation and application stages. Even if you know you’ll need additional support, social services may be able to provide this for you – and as we have already discussed, there can be beneﬁts for children living with disabled parents.
All prospective fosterers or adopters will meet with a medical adviser who will assess information provided through a medical. A social worker will discuss the potential affect that your health or condition might have on a child and explore how these would be managed.
Generally speaking, an adoption agency will take into account your ability to meet the needs of a child until they reach adult independence.
Any parent will tell you that raising children can be expensive but even if you are unemployed or receiving beneﬁts, this will not exclude you from adopting a child. If you are the right parent, the local authority will support you, possibly with extra payments. If you are on a low income you will also have access to beneﬁts such as child tax credits and those associated with disability, where applicable.
It’s not easy but it’s an enormous privilege to help a young person reach maturity and independence. It’s difﬁcult and frustrating, fun and joyful – and ultimately the most satisfying and incredible achievement of your life.
Where to start
People interested in fostering or adopting should contact their local adoption agency. They’ll be able to give you further detail and start to prepare you for life as a foster parent.
The best part is that the preparation and training given is based on your strengths. Adoption agencies are actively looking for you to succeed and to say ‘yes’ to helping a child.
National Adoption Week
National Adoption Week 2017 takes place from the 16 – 22 October. Although this year’s theme is focused on the need to ﬁnd the right adopters for sibling groups, it’s a great opportunity to ﬁ nd out more about all aspects of the process