When Meghan first came forward to become a foster parent at NAC, she didn't quite realize the time commitment needed for training in order to open her home to a medically complex child. She was single and worked full time as a special education teacher and often wondered if it was realistic for her to care for a child with extraordinary needs.
From the onset, Meghan was a perfect match for Leah, who was diagnosed with failure to thrive and had serious emotional and behavioral problems. As a special education teacher, Meghan was patient, had a background in dealing with children with emotional and behavioral needs and most of all, she had a lot of love and caring to give.
At the time, Leah was living in a hospital and needed a home immediately. Meghan was unable to complete her medical training in time to take Leah home, so instead Leah was moved into a temporary foster home. While Meghan completed her training, she traveled from Brooklyn where she lived, to the Bronx where Leah's foster home was, to visit Leah, learn about her medical needs and get better acquainted with the child who would soon live with her. Eventually, after Meghan completed her training and was certified as a NAC foster home, Leah began to stay with Meghan overnight so that she could slowly transition into a new and permanent home. One year after moving in with Meghan full time, Leah was adopted and today is doing extraordinarily well.
How did you find NAC and why did you want to become a foster parent?
I did a search of foster care agencies online and NAC was the first I had contacted. My family had been involved in foster care and adoption for many years as foster parents as well as social workers and I had many students in my classes who were in foster care. I knew how important and rewarding an experience it could be.
How has Leah changed your life?
Leah has changed my life in a million ways. We are now a family. It is wonderful to see the world through her eyes and to expose her to so many experiences. My house is a lot noisier and more chaotic but filled with more love.
How have you changed Leah's life?
I believe that Leah has a strong loving and caring person to help her to succeed in life. She has support, love and a large extended group of family and friends to help her be the best she can be. It is great fun to see her eyes light up when she sees something new and exciting.
Leah went from a hospital setting, to a small class of 8 to a large class of 26 kindergarten students and is doing great. Every day she becomes stronger emotionally and now loves new experiences. This year she is excited about a trip to SC with all her cousins and a trip to Disney World in April. She has gone from a very scared ad needy child to a little girl who says " Please don't kiss me in front of my friends- I'm a big girl--just go home Mom" and runs into her classroom yelling "I'm here Ms. Hackett".
What is the most difficult part about parenting a child with special medical needs?
Leah has some emotional issues that are at times difficult to deal with. I have an educational background of working with children with emotional difficulties so I have already learned strategies and what works and what doesn't. It really just is important that the child hears "I love you" a lot and that they know they are wanted.
What skills do you need to parent a child with special medical needs?
Patience, lots of love and the ability to be able to find help if needed.
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