At Foster for Plymouth, we need foster carers to provide loving homes to children across the Plymouth area. Some of these children may have disabilities, which may mean the child requires additional help in the home.
One of our foster carers, Marcia, discussed her fostering experience with us, providing us with an insight into the care she provides for the young people in her care who have autism. Here’s what she had to say:
“My name’s Marcia, and I have been fostering since 1987. I began my fostering as a single carer with two children of my own. My fostering career began when a young child followed me home from school and said they didn’t want to go home that night. Little did I know that 5 hours after alerting social services and the police, that young person would come to stay with us for 5 years. This was the very first time we’d heard of fostering in your own home, and we haven’t looked back since.
Currently, along with my husband Martin, we have fostered for 30 years. We foster children aged between 0 and 18 years old, and we have provided placements in adoption, teenage drug and alcohol addiction, pregnancy and mother and baby, offering family support to birth parents and their children.
We are currently permanently matched long-term with siblings aged 13 and 15, both of whom have disabilities and complex needs. They have been with us for 10 years, and what a remarkable journey we are all having. We have been given a lot of training to meet their medical needs, and we have learnt how to communicate in different ways as our youngest is predominantly non-verbal. This was really scary for us at the beginning, and we thought, how on earth are we going to manage this? But with the support we were given to help us within our home, here we are, ten years down the line.
For our young people to communicate, we use a lot of signs and symbols, and they’re dotted all around the house to help them throughout their day. At times, it also helps myself and my husband during the day when we forget something or have that foggy moment, we could just nip to a sign and think, ‘what’s what I wanted’ or ‘that’s what I was trying to say’. So really, the signs help everybody.
The oldest of the two young people we care for constantly reminds us: “My brother and I do not have disabilities. We have different abilities.” We absolutely love that. We think of it most days and think, they’re right. They show us different things every day. We’re learning new things every day, and we hope that over the years, they have learnt from us too. We’ve had lots of help, fun, and laughs watching our mentor, Mr. Tumble. This sparked the beginning of our Makaton training which supported our non-verbal young person. It has helped enormously in reducing their frustration and it supports their daily routines, encouraging independence. A typical day for us as a foster family can include supporting our young people to get out of bed, helping them with personal care, then getting dressed and having breakfast. This can take anything from one to two hours, depending on how they feel and what they’re able to achieve that morning. Every day is different, and the preparation the day before is key for us. It cuts out a lot of frustration with the communication, and it ensures the young people can have a clear routine to follow, encouraging their independence. We also introduce new activities which can sometimes take weeks of planning and introducing bit by bit over time. We’ve found that patience, a good sense of humour, and observation really helps before we jump in and say, “Don’t do that, try it this way.”
Both of our young people require a 2:1 or a 1:1 at all times, and we have a family support worker and respite carer for one of our young people. Has it got easier? In terms of communication, understanding, and independence – yes. But they both still need adult support for all of their daily needs, especially out in the community. And of course, there are challenges, and I’m sure there’ll be many more ahead. But, with patience and time together, we have overcome them all. Then up pops a new challenge just to keep us on our toes.
You would learn a lot from this group of people.
Rewards. Rewards are plenty. The first time our youngest spoke after three and a half years and pointed out of the window and said ‘bird’, or when the oldest read us a story independently, reminds us of why we continue to do what we do. And we love it. They now swim, sing, play music, enjoy the outdoors, annoy each other, annoy us, and I’m sure we annoy them too. We love it when they say what everyone else is thinking, right on cue. That’s the wonderful world of autism.
Our days may be longer than most, we may not complete everything or do things the right way around. What is the right way around? We laugh and cry at our mishaps, and most importantly, the young people have ended each day with a sense of achievement to the best of their understanding and ability.
We would encourage anybody to look at this remarkable group of young people. As my oldest says, they’re not scary, they just do things differently. They might do them slower, they might need some more help, but then don’t we all? Especially as we age as well. Their growth and achievements are incredible. They surprise us every day, sometimes every hour of every day. It has been a pleasure to witness the growth and achievements that these beautiful teenagers have shown us. So, when you’re sat thinking about your fostering career, please don’t forget there’s a group of people out there that desperately need your help, your kindness, and your thoughtfulness as much as anybody else. They’re an amazing group of young people. They just need a bit more time and support. But the rewards are absolutely amazing.
We hope this has given you a small insight into our fostering journey and a reason for you to consider this type of fostering.”
Please call us today 01752 308762 or fill in our website form to begin your fostering journey with Foster for Plymouth.