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Caring for children with additional needs

James Chapman is the Service Manager for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Children’s Social Care at Rotherham Council. James has helped children with disabilities in Rotherham for the past 7 years, and shares his advice for fostering a child with additional needs.

Individual care for every child

We believe that every child deserves to feel safe, nurtured and able to achieve their full potential. It’s no different for children with additional needs and disabilities.

“Finding the right care is not just beneficial—it is crucial,” James told us. Over the years, James has seen “remarkable transformations” in young people who have been given the right support:

“A poignant memory is of a young person with learning disabilities who experienced his first school residential trip. The excitement in his eyes was unforgettable as he recounted his adventures, from sleeping on a bunk bed to the disco with his friends. This milestone was made possible by the meticulous preparation undertaken by both his school and his foster carers. They worked tirelessly to reduce his anxieties, helping him familiarise himself with the new environment and coordinating his specialist diet. This level of dedication and preparation is what makes such achievements possible, allowing young people to embrace new experiences and grow”.

What makes a great foster carer for a child with additional needs?

James believes there are key qualities that make a great foster carer: empathy, great communication skills, a passion for learning, the ability to teach life skills, and patience. 

James explains that “empathy is paramount. Our young people enter care because they cannot be cared for at home, experiences often compounded by additional needs. Understanding, compassion and time are crucial to helping them navigate these challenges.”

“A passion for learning and adapting is also vital. Children develop over time, and their needs evolve,” James said. We know that our foster carers often change to meet the needs of the children in their care. We all want to help children grow up in a way that means they’ll feel able to achieve their goals. That might involve teaching life skills to a young person with additional needs, and helping them to become independent in little ways that can make a big difference.

Progress takes time

Our foster carers are excellent communicators and many learn “new ways to communicate such as through symbols or signing”- we can help to arrange courses for this. Communication and organisational skills are also essential when working with other professionals who surround the child. James was keen to confirm the most important element of fostering:

“Lastly, patience is key. Progress can be slow and requires perseverance, but the rewards are immense. Seeing a child develop new skills, grow in confidence, and achieve milestones is incredibly fulfilling”.


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