Foster carers stories

Fiona and Keara’s story

Keara's foster care story

Fiona* is a unique disability foster carer who opens her home to children with complex medical needs, some of whom have life limiting conditions. Fiona was once a sick children’s nurse who dedicated her career to working with such children in the UK NHS and in African orphanages.

Fiona chose to become a foster carer as she wanted to give these children every opportunity to live outside of hospitals and orphanages and experience life in a family, within a community.

Fiona was introduced to Keara* when she was five months old and still in hospital. Keara had been born with a rare genetic disorder. She would require pioneering surgery to improve her quality of life and extend her life expectancy. Sadly it is known that 70% of children with this condition die from respiratory failure in early infancy and childhood, with few reaching adolescence. Fiona wanted to give Keara the chance to live outside of a hospital for as long as possible, so Fiona cared for Keara in her home.

Fiona accompanied Keara for her surgery and remained with her in hospital. Sadly, in Keara’s case the surgery ended with complications and since then she has been dependent on a ventilator 24 hours per day.  Keara had to remain in intensive care for almost 10 months after her surgery. During this time, Fiona spent 8-10 hours per day every day with her to ensure that a healthy attachment was maintained. In order for Keara to be discharged home, Fiona agreed to 24 hour on-site support from a team of nursing staff recruited specifically for Keara.

Keara does have some contact with her birth mother who is in total agreement with Fiona caring for her daughter. Her relationship with the social work team is better with Fiona’s support. Fiona’s relationship with Keara’s birth mother has been supportive throughout, and this young mum not only engages very well with Fiona, but now also has care of a further two children.

Keara has now been with Fiona for over three years. She has not been re-admitted to hospital. The fact that she is reaching many of her developmental milestones is a testament to the care she is getting from Fiona.

Keara is an active child who loves going on her holidays with Fiona (and her nurses), and continues to enjoy the many social activities Fiona has introduced her to.  Keara completed nursery school and has now started primary school in her local community.  Fiona has coped remarkably well with having nurses into her home, but the time she can spend alone with Keara on a daily basis is being increased gradually. Both are treasuring this.

Keara continues to have high physical care needs as she remains dependent on a ventilator for her breathing. A trip to the shops for Fiona and Keara involves an array of equipment and the support of another highly trained person, but to see them being able to do this simple task is really a joy. Keara is enjoying the simple things in life like going to the swing park and watching her Peppa Pig video and loving being back in Fiona’s home. Many thought this moment would never come but with Fiona’s dedication and care, Keara is now a little girl who is loving school, being at home with Fiona and engaging with her wider community. She now enjoys a quality of life nobody thought possible. Fiona has dedicated her life to Keara and it is pure joy and honour to observe the relationship they have formed throughout this journey together.

*Real names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

Find out more about fostering a child with disabilities