Entering the world of fostering can be a whirlwind of excitement and apprehension. Taking the step to foster a child with a disability can be an even larger learning curve – but completely worth the adventure.
Grant and Rhona Mitchell* decided to take a route into foster care after Grant was made redundant.
“I suggested we could look after people’s dogs when the owners were on holiday and then we looked into fostering. Grant was keener on the fostering than looking after dogs,” laughs Rhona. “That’s when we started to look in to it seriously.”
In November 2016, after an intensive application process, Grant and Rhona became foster carers. Working with Aberlour, the couple received an immense amount of guidance and training from the service – which is dedicated to supporting the lives of children, young people and families across Scotland.
Several months after becoming foster carers, Mark* joined their family. At first there had been some difficulties in placing Mark due to his additional needs, which include epilepsy, autism, global developmental delay and incontinence issues. However, Mark soon settled into his home with Grant and Rhona.
“Even though he’s 10, he has the functioning age of three. He still likes Thomas the Tank Engine, Peppa Pig and Minions. The house is full of toys,” says Rhona. Through their time together the couple have seen the progression Mark has made as he grows up. “Seeing a child come on and develop so much is so rewarding. To know that a lot of it is down to yourself is amazing,” she says.
The joy of watching Mark grow and learn, and caring for someone with a disability can be a golden opportunity to realise more about yourself and others. Both Rhona and Grant learned so much about themselves.
She explains: “We had to dig deep and discover patience. I think going through the fostering process you have to get to know yourself quite well, too, and not be judgemental in any way. It’s important not to judge the children’s parents for putting their kids into care because some of the parents can’t cope with children with disabilities, especially if they’ve got their own problems. ”
With the support of Aberlour, Grant and Rhona have not only learned more about themselves, gained new skills and experience, but have also welcomed the joy and love of a new member of their family. It has been an exciting adventure so far with a lot more to come.
Becoming a foster carer means you become a safety blanket for a child or young person in need of love and nurturing care. For those thinking of going into fostering it is imperative to work closely with the fostering service to ensure you are matched with a person that you can provide the accurate support for.
“Think carefully because it’s not for everybody,” advises Rhona. “Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses and they have to take that into consideration.”
For more information on Aberlour or to show your interest in fostering visit their website or call 0800 0856 150
*Names changed to protect identities