DR RADICA MAHASE
DIMITRI is now 12 years. When he was just a child, his relatives could not care for him because of his special needs and they put him in a home for the elderly. He had developmental issues and did not communicate verbally. His case was brought to the attention of the Children’s Authority and he was removed from the home for the elderly and placed in a foster home. Within a week he started to speak. As he was now in a home where, for the first time, his needs were being met he progressed quickly.
After a while, for various reasons he was placed in another foster home where he was given even more special attention and all the tools that he needed to develop. He started to flourish. Eventually he was placed in a home for children with special needs where he is getting all the help he needs to develop. He is attending a school for special needs children; he has access to counselling and he is in the process of exploring speech therapy and is developing very well.
Here is the story of a child who went from not saying a word to a little boy who speaks, writes and does so many other things. This is the difference that foster care can make in the development of children with special needs. Currently, there are about 64 children in foster care and half of them are children with special needs.
The number of children in the care of the Children’s Authority are increasing on a daily basis as the Children’s Authority is called upon to intervene and receive children into their care. Sadly, out of about 40 homes for children in TT, only two are specifically for children with special needs. That is why it so important for the Children’s Authority to have foster homes for the children that are placed in their care.
Foster care is a temporary option for children who are not able to live with their birth families due to different circumstances. Children are placed in a safe, stable and nurturing home environment until they can be reunited with their family or placed in a children’s home. The Children’s Authority has difficulties in getting foster parents for special needs children in particular. You see, we live in a society which perceives special needs children as a "lost cause", difficult to care for and difficult to handle. Everyone wants a "perfect child" or a "normal child" and as a result, children with special needs who are in the care of the Children’s Authority have higher possibilities of not getting a foster parent.
However, while many children with special needs struggle especially if they did not receive the therapy and care they needed, this does not mean that they are a ‘"lost cause". All it means it that what they need is a safe and caring environment for them to progress and thrive like Dimitri and in the interim, foster care can give them this.
Fostering a child with special needs might take a little more effort. A foster parent might need a deeper commitment or more energy than if they were caring for a typically developing child. They might need to learn about the child’s developmental issues; learn about the child's medical needs/treatment or attend therapy sessions.
However, anyone who chooses to foster a child who is in the care of the Children’s Authority will have a strong support system to help them. The Foster Care Team at the Children’s Authority works with foster parents to ensure that the child is not only in a safe, nurturing environment but also has access to the education, counselling and therapy that he/she needs to thrive. The child is not placed in a foster home and then the foster parents/family is left to figure out how to raise this child on their own. The team at the authority is there to support, monitor, guide and assist throughout the time the child is with the foster parent.
As one foster parent said, “I have so much love to give so why not give it to a special child? My greatest joy is seeing a special child develop while in my care.”
If you want to foster a child you can contact the Foster Care Unit at the Children’s Authority at 627-0748 ext 40988 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more info: www.ttchildren.org
Dr Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T