carers age
31-50
relationship
Single with adult children
age of children
6-11
type of care
Intensive, Long-term
needs of children
Behavioural
carers age
31-50
relationship
Single with adult children
age of children
6-11
type of care
Intensive, Long-term
needs of children
Behavioural

Meet Gillian

Gillian is a paediatric nurse with a lot of experience working with children with disabilities and complex needs.

Gillian is an intensive foster carer – which means she cares for children with disabilities or complex challenges and behaviours.

Gillian sat down to answer questions and share her experience fostering children with complex needs.

What drew you to providing intensive foster care?

Every child in care has their own specific needs based on their age, life experiences, trauma or medical needs, and intensive foster carers – like all foster carers – need to be open to learning what they can do to help children reach their full potential. It can be really helpful for these carers if they have previous experience working with kids, as Gillian does with her background in paediatric nursing.

"I’ve always had an interest in children and their behaviours, and Jane* has taught me a lot!" Gillian laughs.

When caring for children with complex challenges or behaviours, what do you do to support their well-being?

Three and a half years ago, Jane, now 12 years old, came into Gillian’s care. Jane needed carers who could spend a lot of one-on-one time with her.

"We knew we had love to give."

Although Gillian has experience working with children with complex behaviours, she believes the most important thing she could give Jane was a lot simpler – spending time with her. Gillian even decided to put work on hold for the first 18 months of their time with Jane so that she could prioritise this.

"Really, it was getting back to that basic raw stuff, just being there for Jane," Gillian said.

"Being reliable – you’d put her to bed, you’d wake her up, you take her to school, you’re there when she’s upset, and if she had questions to ask, you’d give her the best answer that you could."

How do you provide support during challenging moments?

Children in intensive foster care can present as angry and unable to regulate their emotions. This is a normal response to trauma and pain, and with the love and patience of carers like Gillian, supported by training and tools from Life Without Barriers, children’s behaviour can change over time.

"It’s about learning those tools that you can implement to help, ways of de-escalating behaviours, understanding behaviours," Gillian said.

Gillian laughs as she tells the story of Jane having a meltdown in a shopping centre café on their first shopping trip – something a lot of parents could probably relate to!

"Jane would lose control and find it difficult to regulate. Slowly, by putting boundaries in place and working on communicating, and encouraging Jane to talk about difficult feelings she was having and where they were coming from, she was able to regulate her behaviour and express herself."

"I was well informed of the challenges and just rode that wave!"

"I support Jane by ensuring she feels safe and placing her needs at the forefront of decision-making, discussing expectations with her, talking about feelings, and maintaining her usual routine."

*Name changed to protect children in care.

Got more questions?

Our friendly and helpful fostering specialists are ready to answer your questions. Whether you're looking to start the process, get some answers or want more information, our team is waiting for you to connect.