Last year, mum Katie became a Special Guardian to Lukas, her 12-year-old fostered son who has complex needs. But her journey into Lukas’ life began years before she started fostering, when she cared for another young boy, Damien, at a special needs school. Not long before meeting Lukas, Katie learnt he had the same ellenor nurse as Damien - something which Katie believes was a sign that she and Lukas were meant to be in one another’s lives.
Katie spoke about how rewarding she has found fostering a child with complex needs and shares advice to others wishing to do the same.
Before fostering Lukas, Katie worked at a special needs school helping children with all types of disabilities. During her 15 years there, she met Damien - a young boy with global delays and learning difficulties. Katie quickly became an extension of Damien’s family, and he became a part of hers. Sadly, Damien developed cancer and whilst he was in and out of hospital for chemotherapy, Katie discovered that Damien had an ellenor nurse.
When Damien passed away, Katie felt it was time to move on to new pastures. She left the special needs school and decided she wanted to foster children with complex needs.
“I thought that if I wanted to foster children, now was my time to do it before I get too old,” Katie says with a laugh.
After nine months Katie passed her assessment to become a foster parent and was sent profiles of children needing foster homes. When Katie met Lukas, he was 3 years old and in the care of an ellenor nurse.
“Lo and behold, Lukas’ ellenor nurse was the same ellenor nurse as my Damien had! Damien was my very special boy and I feel that when he had to go, he sent me Lukas as my next very special boy,” Katie beams. Every day for a couple of weeks, Katie visited Lukas in hospital to get to know him before bringing him home. Despite her experience working with disabled children, Katie says it was “quite scary” bringing Lukas home to be solely responsible for him.
“I really believe that Damien sent Lukas to us,” says Katie.
“I remember that very first day when I brought him home. The social worker was very supportive and told me I was okay. But as soon as she walked out the door, Lukas had a massive seizure! I sat with him on my lap with the oxygen next to us and I had a moment of ‘Oh my goodness, what have I done?!’ At first, it was very daunting.”
Katie says Lukas’ profile detailed his array of existing needs. She knew that his brain damage (likely caused by neonatal sepsis) meant he had cerebral palsy, epilepsy and dystonia. She also knew he had weak lungs (so would have oxygen drops each night), suffered from recurrent chest infections and was nil-by-mouth (and therefore tube fed). Katie understood Lukas would be wheelchair bound, non-verbal, have very low muscle tone and be dependent upon others for all of his needs.