At 26 and 28, Sarah Reed and her husband Jamie aren’t your typical foster carers – but it’s a role that they’re embracing with bucket loads of enthusiasm. Sarah took some time out from her busy day to tell us how fostering through agency Credo Care has changed her life
The UK is home to more than 55,000 foster families. Single people, couples and families who have opened their homes to welcome children from a huge range of different backgrounds, offering them the support, love and care that they deserve.
Sadly, children with disabilities – from complex medical needs to behavioural issues – are more difficult for local authorities to place in foster homes. Approximately 40% of children waiting on a new permanent family have a disability or special need. With a shortage of carers with the skills to care for a disabled child, many are living in residential care homes instead.
Sarah and Jamie Reed are one couple who have seen first-hand the difference that a loving foster home can make for a child. The pair, who live in Derby, have worked in care for adults with learning disabilities for years, and were keen to work with children with special needs.
“Our friends started fostering with Credo Care, who specialise in working with disabled children,” Sarah explains. “We decided it was something we’d like to do. We’ve got a stable home, lots of space, a fantastic garden, and we just thought, ‘We could do this.’”
Sarah and Jamie got in touch with Credo Care themselves and got the ball rolling. At first, they were worried that they didn’t fit the traditional foster carer mould, being just 26 and 28 – but the agency welcomed them with open arms.
With Credo Care, the application process takes about nine months, and starts with an initial registration of interest, followed by meetings with social workers, completing the lengthy assessment process, training sessions and finally appearing in front of a fostering panel, made up of independent social workers, health workers and other professionals who make recommendations to the agency about applicants’ suitability as foster carers.
After being approved by the panel in April, Jamie and Sarah took on their first placement – a four-year-old boy called Darren*.
“He’s lovely,” Sarah says warmly. “He has autism and global developmental delay, he’s very cheeky, loves to be outdoors exploring, climbing and getting wet! He has his challenges – he doesn’t communicate verbally, he just makes noises, but we’ve managed to teach him thank you in a sign.”
Sarah gave up work to commit to caring for Darren, and at first she was worried that she might become isolated away from the workplace. However, she says that her social life has never been so full.
“We have these support groups once a month, where you can socialise and talk about things,” Sarah explains. “We organise to meet up and have play dates with the children outside of that. Credo also offer sessional hours, when a sessional worker will come to our house so me and Jamie can go off and have a date night.”
Carers are also assigned a social worker and a mentor, a fellow carer, to help with any questions or queries they have. They offer training and development opportunities too, to make sure that they and their foster children are fully supported along the way.
Foster placements offer a more personalised approach to care – growing up in a home with people with the right skills and attitude has proven to have real benefits.
“We’ve met children in hospitals and residential homes who have high needs and sometimes life limiting conditions,” explains Matt Foulkes, marketing manager at Credo Care. “Some have been given only months to live, then we matched them to really great carers who provide them with loving family homes, and now we have a number of cases where the child has gone on to live for five or six years.”
Darren is thriving with Sarah and Jamie. Due to start at a specialist autism school after the summer, Sarah reports that he’s started making new and different sounds, he’s hitting and lashing out much less and reaches for their hands when they’re out and about.
Sarah and Jamie have already vowed to foster more children in the future, once they’ve had kids of their own – and carers with their passion, enthusiasm and skills are constantly in demand.
“Although we provide training, there’s a need for people with experience,” Matt says. “Having said that, we have a carer who used to be a plumber, an ex- actress and her opera singer husband – they care for a child who has complex medical needs and a rare chromosomal condition. The carer who’s a plumber, his wife also works in a children’s hospice. We’re looking for people who have some skills or experience with disabilities.”
To find out more about becoming a foster carer, get in touch with agencies operating in your area to see how to apply. Meet with other carers, ask questions and make sure it’s 100% the best thing for you – it’s a big commitment that changes your life completely, but, as Sarah will testify, it’s worth all of the time, energy and effort.
“Before you go into fostering, make sure you have support – I’m really lucky to have a supportive family,” she advises. “Make sure you get the right agency for you too. We wanted to work with an agency specialising in disabilities, but obviously there are lots of agencies out there. And don’t be scared – at first, me and Jay were absolutely terrified! But it is definitely worth it.”
About Credo Care
Credo Care was established in 2000 as the UK’s first fostering agency specialising in the care of children with disabilities. They work with local authorities across the UK to provide provide stable, loving and professional foster families to children who otherwise may be in hospital or residential homes. To find out more becoming a foster carer with Credo Care, head to www.credocare.co.uk or call 01797 322 226.
* Name Changed
Enable Magazine, September/October 2015