Disabled Children and Children who Need Special Medical Help


  1. Introduction
  2. Caring for a Child

1. Introduction

This chapter talks about children who have disabilities and those who have complex health needs. There are too many types of disability and complex health needs to list here but if you are caring for a child with these needs, there will be at least one professional who has a clear idea about what the disability is and what it means for the child to function on a day-to-day basis.

Sometimes a child or young person may have been given a label like 'autistic' by somebody and this might not be accurate so you need to work with the other people involved with the child to understand better what this means and what they are really like.

Disabled people often find that their disabilities are the first and only thing that people notice about them. The child or young person should be thought of first before the special need that they have.

2. Caring for a Child

The sort of help that Disabled Children need are:

  • Help with physical disabilities like mobility issues;
  • Help with Learning Difficulties and social disorders such as those on the Autistic Spectrum;
  • Sensory impairments (e.g. partial sight).

The sort of help that children with complex health need are:

  • Special medication and dealing with things like epilepsy;
  • Help with breathing, eating and other daily functions like using the toilet and bathing.

Where a disabled child needs special help, you should be in a position to provide this. This means that these things should be in place before the child moves in:

  • You may need special training from a suitably qualified medical professional. This could include giving special medication or attending to other health issues such as tube feeding and understanding the child’s needs;
  • You should be provided with suitable equipment such as a hoist or a special car seat or wheelchair;
  • Where there are risks around manual handling, risk assessments should be completed.

It should also be clarified as to what equipment the child may bring with them and what else they may need and who will provide it.

Some children have entitlements to benefits that are not affected by being in a foster home. See Money Matters and Insurance.

When considering caring for a child with a disability, you need to be given full information in order to be clear whether you can meet their needs and what support you will receive. You must be approved to care for these children before they can be placed. Once you have decided to take the child, the Placement Planning meeting should detail all the support including the medical needs the child has. It should be clear what decisions you can make regarding the child’s day-to-day life including medical decisions.

All Disabled Children should have a Statement of Special Educational Need (SEN) which identifies the help that they need to get the best out of going to school, pre-school and college. You should know what this says before a child is placed.

Many children with disabilities need continuing services throughout their lives.

Assessment should take a long-term perspective. This will help you, the birth family and professionals to make decisions about the kind of help needed, at different points in time, for example with education, respite or other services.

Your Fostering Social Worker or the child’s social worker should help you to identify appropriate support and advice from relevant agencies including how the child can follow their interests and take part in activities they are interested in.

You should make sure they have all they need to reach their potential and lead as full a life as possible. The child’s social worker will have knowledge of local resources and activities and be able to put you in touch with other parents/carers of Disabled Children.