The decision to become a Foster Carer is a life-changing one and the idea of caring for a disabled child might feel even more daunting.

Newsquest is marking Foster Care Fortnight this year (Monday, May 15 to Sunday, May 28 ) by celebrating the strength and resilience of the people who do take the leap to foster a child or young person.

Last year’s theme #FosteringCommunities is returning for 2023 with the aim of shining a light on all of the young people, social workers, foster carers and more who make up this special community.

Whether you are already knowledgeable about the fostering process or you are still debating this life-changing experience, here is what you need to know about adopting children with disabilities.

The Argus: The Fostering Network describes Fostering as one of the ‘most varied, challenging and rewarding

Being a foster carer means welcoming a child into your home and family as well as meeting their unique set of needs.

Caring for a disabled child or young person might at first appear daunting but it can be a very rewarding role, according to the children’s charity Barnardo’s.

Although a foster parent will need to consider additional physical disabilities, medical conditions or learning difficulties, they won’t be alone in doing so.

“You will be helping a child with additional needs to live life to the fullest – giving them the help and support they need to reach their potential,” Barnardo’s added on its website.

The charity went on to say that fostering can come in many forms and in any case can transform lives.

Meet Asa

The Argus: Meet Asa. ( Team Domenica)Meet Asa. ( Team Domenica) (Image: Team Domenica)

One of those lives includes 21-year-old Asa from Hove who has Autism Spectrum Condition.

Thanks to the support from a Brighton charity, Team Domenica, which supports young people with learning difficulties, he’s now building a career in hospitality.

Asa has completed work placements in various Brighton hotels including The Grand and Hotel du Vin and is hoping that this will lead to paid employment.

However, just a few years ago was struggling in his relationship with his mum and spending a lot of time in the virtual world.

Barnardo’s Family Link Plus in Hove were on hand to support, putting mother and son in touch with local contract carer Helen when he began spending some nights at her house to give him a change of scene, and his mum some rest.

“When I first met Helen, I didn’t want respite care,” Asa said.

 “I was very unsettled for my first overnight stays, you are literally staying in a stranger’s house.

“Although I was still quite young, I understood it was to give my mum a break”.

Today, Asa credits Helen with transforming the direction he was heading in life.

He said: “Without her help and influence I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

Barnardo’s has explained that Helen helped Asa in various ways by filling in the gaps in his education and helping him develop key life skills including teaching him to tie his own tie for his first work placement!

“I learn something every day with Helen,” Asa commented as he credited her “wisdom and experience”.

Crucially Helen has been able to fill the gap in services and support, by helping with the soft skills like college applications and benefit enquiries.

When asked what she would say to someone thinking about becoming a carer Helen said:“If you enjoy spending time with children there is a fostering role for you. Over 30 years I have cared for children and young people with a huge range of additional needs.

"For the last 10 years I have been a Contract Carer supporting children and young people with complex needs and Asa was one of my first placements. I have enjoyed seeing how he is flourishing and reaching his potential with the support of Barnardo’s.”

Meanwhile, Barnardo's added: “Without people like Helen, families and young people are all too often left on their own and miss out on opportunities and vital support.”

What to know about fostering disabled children

The Argus: Newsquest is marking Foster Care Fortnight this year by celebrating the strength and resilience of those who do take that leap. (Getty Images)Newsquest is marking Foster Care Fortnight this year by celebrating the strength and resilience of those who do take that leap. (Getty Images) (Image: Getty Images)

Support and ongoing specialist training is available to those looking to take on this rewarding work.

Additionally, foster carers can also receive extra relevant training, supervision and a fostering allowance when caring for a child with disabilities through the likes of Barnardo’s.

The charity suggests that type of foster care may be of particular interest to people who are in the health, social, education or youth professions.

For more information or to enquire about Barnardo's full range of fostering opportunities, visit Barnardo's website or contact 0800 0277 280.

Brenda Farrell, Head of Foster and Adoption at Barnardo’s, said: “More and more children are going into care each year, but we continue to experience a shortage of foster carers, leaving hundreds of children without a safe and loving home.

“Between April 2022 and March 2023, we had 31,109 children referred to our fostering services across the UK – an increase of 21 per cent from the previous year. This shows that the demand for foster carers is much higher.

“This year we are asking people to consider joining our wonderful community of foster carers. We offer support and training every step of the way and, on average, a payment of £495 per week, per child is available.

“No child should suffer as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, and we strongly believe that any loving person can make a wonderful foster parent to a child in need.”