Fostering a child with complex health needs and disabilities
Tariq and Irum are in their 30s with 4 children of their own. They foster a 16 year old boy with complex health needs and disabilities. Hear their fostering story:
What made you want to foster?
"When our own children were very small, Bradford Council had a campaign to recruit more foster carers with adverts on the back of buses. We saw those adverts and it really made us want to foster, but we knew that our lives were too busy at the time.
I worked in Children’s Services for another authority and my wife was a teacher and we had four children of our own.
The interest in fostering never left us and we knew we would apply one day.
What really pushed us to apply was a desire to make a proper difference to the life of one child.
Although we worked with children professionally, we both felt that we spent too much time in front of a computer and not enough actually with children.
When our children were a little older, we began to talk to them about the idea of having a foster brother or sister.
"As Muslims, we believe strongly in the values of compassion, generosity and opening our home and our hearts to someone who needs love and care."
When we felt that we as a family were strong enough to do this, we approached Bradford Fostering and we have not looked back since."
Becoming foster carers
"When we were approved as carers, we were very open about what kind of child we would consider.
It didn’t matter about boy or girl, or what age they were. It was more about their personality, their interests and if we could meet their needs.
When we heard about Waseem, his life story really touched us both. Waseem has physical and learning difficulties. He has been in care since he was young. He was living happily with another foster family until they became unwell and he was moved to a children’s home.
Waseem has complex needs but all the staff at Bradford went out of their way to make sure we understood everything about him.
We talked to the children’s home, his school, the medical advisers and his social worker before we even met him.
Bradford Fostering made sure we had all the information we needed to make the decision about whether Waseem was right for our family. We then got to know him gradually with lots of visits, before he moved in with us.
What has been the impact of fostering?
"Waseem has changed so much in the three years he has been living with us and he has gone from being aggressive and introverted to being calm, friendly and contented – most of the time!
It hasn’t always been easy. Waseem would lash out when he first moved in and a couple of times he did hurt our own children. Fortunately, nothing too serious happened, but we needed to work out how to keep everyone safe when Waseem’s behaviour was difficult.
It has taken lots of patience to get Waseem to where he is now. My wife gave up her job to focus on Waseem and on helping the other children adjust to his arrival.
We are an active, sporty, sociable family and we had to work out how to adapt our lifestyle to make it work for everyone.
For example, we had to visit the swimming pool many, many times before Waseem learned to feel comfortable in the water and behave well. He now loves family swimming sessions. It was the same with family mealtimes and outings.
"I think it is important to celebrate really small steps and work at the child’s pace."
Although we encourage Waseem to try new things, it’s important for his dignity that we don’t put him in situations which he cannot manage. Waseem can’t talk to us, so we have had to learn to read his body language, to know when he is feeling stressed or anxious.
Waseem came to us from a large family and part of our job as foster carers is to help him maintain contact with his birth family.
He lives full-time with us, but has good connections with family and other people from his past. We meet up with his parents and his brothers and sisters and make sure we all spend time together on special days like at Eid.
Waseem’s life has been complicated but we have tried to make sure that he still sees all those who have been important to him, so his birth family and his previous carer’s family are all part of our network now. He copes with this really well and sees it as the best of both worlds.
If you are thinking of fostering, you need to remember that relationships take time to grow. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Our four children all adapted to Waseem’s arrival in different ways. They were kind to him, but it takes time for those feelings to deepen and there were setbacks in the early days.
I can remember exactly when each of the children really began to see Waseem as a brother. Now he is completely one of us and will stay with us even when he becomes an adult. Waseem will not be able to live independently, so when he reaches 18, we plan to become Shared Lives carers, so he will stay as part of our family.
Our children are adamant that Waseem should never leave and have said ‘when you are old, we will help with our brother Waseem’."
What advice would you give to any prospective foster carers?
My wife and I have always felt part of a good team at Bradford Council. We have felt heard and listened to by social workers. Some of Waseem’s needs are quite complex and we have worked with people from children’s services, health or education to work out together how to meet those needs.
We have been very well supported and been given excellent training. Becoming part of Bradford’s ‘fostering team’ has been a great experience for us and having Waseem is our family has given us so much and added lots of pleasure and richness to all our lives.
Our experience has been so positive that now Waseem is well settled, we are in the process of being assessed for another child. We can’t wait!
Names have been changed.
Would you like to learn more about foster care in Bradford?
Foster carers change lives. If you feel inspired by this fostering story, please do get in touch with our Bradford Fostering team today, or download an information pack today and see how you can make a difference.
We are ready to talk to you and answer your questions.