The decision to become a foster parent is a monumental undertaking, no matter the situation. Sacrificing your time and home to give a child a better life, until they are in a place to be adopted or age out of the system, is nothing short of heroic. To provide foster care for children with disabilities is even more of a massive, life-changing choice.
Developmentally challenged children come with their own personal set of challenges, both discouraging and fun. Many children with disabilities are independent enough to live a somewhat normal life with minor discrepancies from non-disabled children.
However, children with more severe disabilities may require more resources, patience, and time than others. It can be a heart-warming and awe-inspiring process to provide foster care for children with disabilities, yet there are a few things to consider before choosing to go down this path.
Contemplate these five questions before choosing to offer foster care for a developmentally challenged child.
Do you have the proper housing and resources?
To foster parent a child in the state of Arkansas, you must have adequate resources to take care of the child’s financial, medical, physical, educational, emotional, and shelter needs. You cannot rely solely on state or federal financial aid to be able to meet these needs.
Specifically, within your home, there needs to be enough space to maintain the child’s health and safety. The child’s bedroom should have at least 50 square feet of space per occupant. Any firearms need to be secured in a safe, locked area, and stored away from ammunition.
Any water hazards or dangerous pets will be assessed by the state, and if needed, safety measures could be taken. Children of opposite genders must be in separate bedrooms if they are four or older, and you are not permitted to smoke in the home or near the child.
Do you have enough time to provide necessary care for the child?
Providing foster care for children with disabilities is less stressful and more fun when you have a solid game plan. Whether they have therapy or medical appointments, or planned activities with disability services, it is important that you are able to safely and regularly get them there.
If you work 60 hours a week, or do not have reliable transportation, foster parenting a child with special needs may not be feasible. Children with developmental challenges need access to learning and medical resources on a regular basis.
It is imperative that you are able to provide the child with the necessary care to maintain an optimum level of their quality of life.
Are you capable of managing challenging behaviors in a healthy way?
All children misbehave and act out. Sometimes, it can be especially difficult for developmentally disabled children to adequately express their frustrations in a healthy way.
It takes patience, compassion, and big-picture thinking at times when children behave poorly. It is your job to understand and manage their behavior positively. There is absolutely no place or tolerance for physical discipline, emotional neglect, or other types of hurtful punishment.
These types of punishments can be traumatic, encourage further negative behavior, and make it tough for the child to trust and display affection toward you.
Composure and patience are absolutely necessary. Foster children can harbor complex emotions, and might even purposely push their boundaries. Always try to set a positive example with how you speak and act, and emphasize education, rather than punishment.
Do you have the ability to accommodate the child’s special needs?
Knowing and providing what the foster child needs can be a complex process. Every child is different, and every disability requires different resources.
Disability services for children in Little Rock like Integrity, Inc. provide foster parents pre-service training geared toward the special needs of children in care with developmental disabilities. Integrity also specializes homes to meet the specific needs of children with disabilities, including medical conditions that require care beyond the typical standards.
Disability services for children include day habilitation, which promotes one-on-one independent living skills instruction; comprehensive case management, which offers a case management staff member trained in disability-related issues, trauma, adaptive equipment, and more; EIDT daycare services for up to five hours a day and Speech, Occupational and Physical therapies if a child qualifies based on a standardized assessment; and transition service for children on the verge of adulthood. This helps special needs individuals transition into adult living options if they still require support, but no longer fit the foster care system based on their age.
Are you financially able to take care of the child’s provisions?
Finances should never be a burden when providing foster care. If you have any concerns about income, debts, or covering expenses for the child’s well-being, it may be smart to reevaluate providing foster care for children with disabilities. A kind and generous heart can truly go a long way, but stable finances enable a healthy environment for the child. In addition to basic necessities, foster children may require counseling, special education, and routine medical check-ups to evaluate their physical and mental well-being.
Medicaid will typically cover a foster child’s medical expenses, and foster families are often issued a monthly board payment to help with basic living costs, like food and clothing. Difficulty of Care Payment can be a potential resource for special needs foster children.
Embark on your journey toward foster care in Little Rock with support and confidence!
For further support and resources to help you decide whether to foster parent a developmentally challenged child, contact Integrity, Inc. at (877) 452-9502, or visit our website. Get in touch today to learn more about our disability services, and to receive guidance in your foster family journey.