Choosing to become a foster parent to a child with Down Syndrome takes a high level of commitment, but may also be very rewarding. People interested in taking in a child with Down Syndrome can expect to have to prove they are ready for the challenge, learn how to meet their foster child's special needs at home, participate in medical care and fulfil educational requirements.
Learn about Down Syndrome and what you can expect from parenting a child who has it. Children with this disorder have medical, psychological and emotional needs you should be aware before beginning to foster them. Contact the agency you are considering fostering through and ask for a reference to an advocacy group that might be able to put you in touch with a parent of a child who has Down Syndrome for information and support. Ask your family doctor for resources as well. Parent-to-Parent USA offers support in many states.
Contact the foster parenting agency in your area and find out what is required for fostering a special-needs child. You may need to take classes and be certified. These requirements vary by state and will need to be fulfilled prior to taking in your foster child. As an example, foster parents in Indiana who want to foster a child with Down Syndrome through the state must complete 10 supplemental hours of training in addition to the regular 20 hours of foster-parent training. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources offers a directory of national foster care and adoption agencies by state.
Prepare your house for your foster child with Down Syndrome. The foster care agency should be able to help you with exact details about what this entails. Children with Down Syndrome have different needs from other children their age. For instance, you may need to think about a fire exit plan that anticipates your foster child's special needs. Most foster care agencies require that children have their own bedrooms or only room with other children of the same gender who are relatively close in age. There are also regulations about how many people can share a bathroom. Because not all children with Down Syndrome have the same needs, you must be flexible and willing to adapt to the needs of the child who is placed with you.
Talk to your local school principal or counsellor to find out what will be expected from you as the foster parent of a special-needs student. If you feel you need help, ask for a reference to a school advocacy agency. Your state's department of education maintains a list of advocacy agencies for parents and guardians of special-needs students.
Prepare the other children in your home for their new foster sibling by talking to them frankly about Down Syndrome and what special needs the child may have. Information can make an unknown situation seem less intimidating. Your local advocacy group will have ideas for talking to your children about having a foster sibling with Down Syndrome. Children with Down Syndrome usually have some level of cognitive disability as well as developmental delays and physical differences such as low muscle tone. All of these mean that even if you are fostering a child who is the same age or older than your child, their needs are different and need to be understood and accommodated by every person in the household.
- NDSS: About Education, Development and Community Life
- Childwelfare.gov: Foster Care Statistics
- Fosterparenting.com: Foster Parenting
- Childwelfare.gov: Adopting Children with Developmental Disabilities
- Indiana Department of Child Services: Special Needs and Therapeutic Care Options
- Kids Health: Down's Syndrome