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My Experience as a Disabled Foster Carer – Nigel

Nigel is a Foster carer with Fostering Solutions North West

Nigel and wife, Penny are coming up to their 15th year as foster carers. Five of those have been spent with Fostering Solutions North West. Over the years, they have cared for more than 40 children, aged from 18 months to teenage.

Sadly, in March 2018, a foster child with learning disabilities injured Nigel, causing him to lose his sight completely in one eye and become severely sight-impaired in the other. For some people, this might have been enough to bring an end to their work as foster carers, but Nigel and Penny saw things differently. They knew that the child hadn’t intended to harm Nigel and was simply unaware of the consequences of his actions.

Penny said:

“It was Nigel’s choice. If he’d wanted to stop fostering, I’d have understood and respected his decision but secretly I hoped he’d want to continue, and he did.”

Nigel explained:

“What happened with that particular foster child doesn’t have a bearing on any other children. I thought ‘why should other children miss out on the chance of living here just because of that?’ It wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t the child’s fault. I felt that we still had a lot to offer – we had so much experience going back over so many years – so, we made the decision to continue.”

Penny is the primary carer and Nigel is the secondary carer, alongside working as a hotel manager. With the support of Access to Work he was able to return to the workplace and he also underwent extensive training on living with sight loss.

Although losing his sight has had a significant impact on his life, and he suffers from constant headaches, Nigel believes that his disability has positive benefits for some of the foster children. He explained:

“We had one young lady with learning disabilities. She was quite restricted in what she could do, but being with me brought out her nurturing side. When we went out, she would take my arm and do what she could to help me. The two girls who are with us now are eight and 10. When they first came to us around three and a half years ago, they didn’t have much awareness of the needs of others. But now they always want to help me and they have a much greater level of empathy and understanding.”

Penny said: “Nigel has adapted really well to being sight-impaired. He can’t read with the children like he used to, but he encourages them to read to him and to spell out any words they don’t know. He helps them with their times tables and takes them out for lunch and on train journeys. On a recent activity day with Fostering Solutions, he came down the ski slope on one of the big inflatable donuts with one of the foster children sitting on his knee!”

Nigel and Penny praised the support they received from Fostering Solutions after the accident occurred, which ranged from practical assistance with the children through to financial and emotional support. Despite Nigel’s injury, they believe fostering has brought many positive things to their life.

Penny said: “One of the boys who came to us is now in the army. Another little girl who has learning disabilities went on to be adopted. Even the boy who caused Nigel’s injury still visits us. Fostering has enhanced our lives and extended our family. I now buddy new foster carers. I always say fostering is one of the best and one of the worst things we’ve ever done. It can be so challenging but when you see the success stories it’s just so rewarding.”

Nigel and Penny urge people not to think of a disability as something that will hold them back. Penny said:

“I see in Nigel that he brings so much resilience and determination and understanding of how it is to work with challenges.”

Nigel added: “If anything if people believe you can’t it makes you more determined to prove them wrong. The support we’ve received as foster carers has been phenomenal. The team at Fostering Solutions is strong and inclusive and supportive. They bend over backwards to ensure we have what we need and can continue to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people.”

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