2000 Jordan Institute
Tim and the Wilsons
The following is based on a family profiled in Home Is Where the Care Is, produced by the Oregon Children Services Division's Foster Parent Education Program. Although Tim and the Wilsons are real people, their names have been changed to protect their confidentiality.
Tim was born with two strikes against him. He was born with grossly-enlarged lymph nodes, and his mother abandoned him shortly after his birth. The doctors could not correct the problem until Tim got older and stopped growing. In the meantime, his lymph nodes got so large that Tim needed a tracheotomy to breathe. His lymph nodes so altered his facial features that several potential foster parents said that they were physically unable to hold Tim and care for him.
But Tim was lucky. The Wilsons discovered his plight and decided to bring him into their foster home. Tim is one of three medically-needy foster children in the Wilsons' home.
Mrs. Wilson says that it was scary at first, and very demanding. She says that it takes more than love, that "a family must have a commitment to really help children who are physically handicapped." And the Wilsons could not have done it without medical and other community support services. But Mrs. Wilson also believes that the rewards by far outweigh the costs. The payoff comes when she sees the child's condition and behaviors improve.
What is the Wilsons' formula for success? The Wilsons foster as a family. Every family member participates in the care of the foster children. Mrs. Wilson sets small and realistic goals, ones the child can easily achieve. Every time a goal is met, a new one is set. The Wilsons describe themselves as flexible and patient. Mrs. Wilson says, "you have to believe you have something to offer physically handicapped children." Respite care is important, but hard to come by. The Wilsons count on support groups and ongoing training opportunities to keep them energized and knowledgeable about how to care for their foster children.
Successful fostering of special needs children takes highly-skilled families with a special interest and feeling for handicapped children. Their skill and interest is what enables children to develop positive, hopeful attitudes about themselves.
Benjamin, T. & Uchytol, E. (1982). Home is where the care is. Oregon: Children Services Division, Foster Parent Education Program.
© 1997 Jordan Institute for Families