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Fostering children with autism

One of the most important things when you become a foster carer is showing a young person they can always trust you to do what is best for them. It can be hard for children in care to believe that someone wants to take care of them, especially if there are a number of factors at play.

Moving in with foster carers

Malik and his siblings live with a St Christopher’s foster family. They had complex needs and their parents could no longer take care of them; their father has a life-limiting medical condition, whilst their mother had a serious operation that left her immobile.

Malik had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), so he was taking medication to help. However, his prescription caused an early onset of puberty, so he was experiencing a lot of confusing emotions that he found difficult to cope with at such a young age. It meant that Malik could behave aggressively to his sisters and to his classmates at school.

One of his sisters has a medical condition that can be life-threatening if her body receives serious trauma. That meant it was especially important for Malik to be supported to keep his anger under control.

Because of their situation at home, Malik and his siblings had been parented by both their parents and by each other, which meant they had contradicting rules and boundaries. This was a lot for the three children to deal with, so they came to live with St Christopher’s foster carers.

When he moved in, Malik said: “I am looking forward to having some time to myself and to do fun things with a different family. Sometimes all of my family shout at me and it makes me angrier and then I hit out at my sisters or my mum. I love my family and would not like to go to another family forever, just for a holiday.”

Learning about autism

To make sure they knew how to look after a child with ASD, Malik’s foster carers attended specialist training on autism and became familiar with his medication. They learnt what behaviours were likely to be escalated by his condition or because of his previous experiences, so they set realistic and consistent boundaries. They made sure these boundaries were appropriate to the care Malik needed and that he understood why they were there.

Whilst awaiting a place at school, his parents were supported by St Christopher’s staff to provide educational activities at home. Once Malik did return to school, the transition was smoother and he received all positive feedback at a recent parents evening. He was more prepared for what was expected of him and had a better understanding of boundaries and school rules thanks to his foster carers’ work.

In line with St Christopher’s use of social pedagogy, Malik’s foster family supported him to try lots of different activities so he could experience new things. His carers provided lots of positive praise to boost his self-esteem and helped him choose which activities he wanted to continue. Malik now takes part in horse riding and cricket, and trusts his carers because they listened to him and acted on what he said.

How foster carers make a difference

All of this work means Malik’s confidence is slowly growing. He has made friends at school and has great relationships with his wider foster family, as well as keeping in contact with his birth family.

Because of the love and care his foster family have shown him, Malik feels safe to open up about his feelings. He listens to their feedback when he behaves in a negative way, and has reduced the number of times he crosses boundaries because he understands what the consequences will be. They have taught him that it’s OK for people to have different views and he is learning more each day.

Malik wants to stay with his foster carers for the foreseeable future. They have put so much love, time and effort into making sure he has a happy childhood with his sisters and foster family by his side.

Changing children’s lives

But there are more young people like Malik who are still looking for the perfect foster carer to unlock their full potential and help them shine. That’s why we are asking YOU if you could change a child’s life through fostering.

You’ll receive round-the-clock support, specialist training and a generous allowance, as well as all the rewards that fostering brings. Find out about fostering with St Christopher’s today.

Foster with St Christopher’s