Foster Care

What is Special Needs Foster Care?

Special needs foster care, often called medically fragile foster care, help children living with certain disabilities thrive. Read more in our blog!

Foster care provides children in need with a loving family — they get the care they need to thrive.

However, not all children are the same. Some children are living with special needs that require specific types of care.

For example, special needs foster care.

Below, we’ll dive into what special needs foster care is, the responsibility of special needs foster parents, benefits, and more. 

What is Special Needs Foster Care?

Just like foster care, special needs foster care helps children with parents who are unable to care for them. 

However, special needs foster care involves children living with certain disabilities or disorders that may need special care.

In most cases, special needs foster parents will need to go through certain preservice sessions to understand how to properly care for children living with special needs.

To better understand this, we should look at the impact that special needs can have on a child’s life.

Understanding Children With Special Needs

The term "special needs" can refer to many different disabilities — no two children are the same!

Some children may have mild conditions, while others may be living with a more severe condition. 

It is crucial for foster parents to understand what each child is going through since it allows them to tailor their care to the specific needs of the child. 

For example, a child living with mild Autism will likely have different needs than a child living with Down Syndrome. 

Being well-informed about the challenges that children face is needed to provide them with the best possible care.

Benefits of Special Needs Foster Care

Providing Tailored Care 

Special needs foster care parents provide tailored care to children in need. By working closely with healthcare professionals, therapists, and educators, it ensures that a child's care plan is uniquely crafted for their specific needs.

Emotional Support

Just like in traditional foster care, children in special needs foster care receive the emotional support they need to thrive. Foster parents play an important role in providing a stable and loving environment, helping children feel secure and valued.

Educational Support

Special needs foster parents, together with educators, create a school environment that suits a child's learning style and abilities. This tailored approach empowers children living with disabilities to excel with their learning.

Building Life Skills

Children in special needs foster care gain life skills and experiences that will serve them well as they transition into adulthood — even if they require care beyond their teenage years. These skills can include daily living skills, communication, and much more.


Every child can benefit from stability and routine — especially those living with certain disabilities. Special needs foster parents provide stability and consistency in the lives of these children. A structured and nurturing environment helps children feel secure and enables them to thrive.

Responsibilities of Special Needs Foster Parents

While special needs foster parents are providing the same standard of care that other foster parents give, there is some extra attention that needs to be paid. 

Emotional Care

Foster parents in special needs care play an important role in giving emotional support and creating a nurturing space. 

Building trust, creating a stable routine, and patience are all essential parts of this responsibility. Children living with special needs need stability and support to thrive, making it crucial for foster parents to be emotionally available.

Physical Care

The daily care of a child living with special needs can, in some cases, be more complex. Foster parents may need to address certain needs related to hygiene, nutrition, and daily activities. 

For example, a child living with cerebral palsy may need help with mobility and personal care, while a child living with dietary restrictions related to allergies or sensory issues may need a unique tailored meal plan.

Foster parents must adapt to a child's unique needs and provide the right physical care for them to thrive.

Medical Care

Children living with special needs may need ongoing medical care and therapy — foster parents need to make sure that children in care make it to these appointments. 

This may include regular doctor's appointments, medication management, and speech, occupational, or physical therapy. Foster parents will have to work closely with healthcare professionals to make sure children in care get the necessary treatments and therapies.

Becoming a Special Needs Foster Parent

The process to become a special needs foster parent isn’t much different than becoming a traditional foster parent. However, there may be some extra preservice sessions to give the proper care needed to a child with special needs. 

The process may differ slightly by state, but here’s what you can expect:

  • A minimum age requirement (this varies by state from 18 to 25)
  • Completing a foster care skill development program (for children living with special needs, this will likely involve preservice sessions on how to deal with specific disabilities)
  • Having a private bedroom for the child in care (sharing with another child may be welcomed in appropriate cases)
  • Having a dedicated income source from work or other income

Home Study

If the above requirements are met, foster parents must take part in a home study.

Home studies assess whether or not a potential foster home is right for a child in care. This process includes interviews, home inspections, and an assessment of the foster parents' ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment.


Organizations responsible for giving foster care licenses carefully review all the facts to determine if a home is suitable for children in care. It's a thorough process and may take some time, but it’s all to ensure that children are safe. 

Special Needs Foster Care Challenges

Nothing is without challenges — including special needs foster care.

Here are some of the challenges you may face caring for the medically fragile. However, with certain strategies and knowledge, you can overcome them!

Emotional Stress or Burnout

Caring for children with special needs can take a lot out of a parent. You may go through a range of emotions, including stress, frustration, and worry. 

Special needs caregiving can lead to burnout if not managed properly. To prevent this, foster parents should seek support and prioritize self-care whenever possible.

Respite care is also an option to provide foster parents with a well-deserved break for self-care!

Navigating Healthcare

Healthcare services and therapies for children with special needs can sometimes be hard to figure out. Foster parents need to work with various specialists, manage insurance, and understand treatment plans that could be complex.

Working closely with foster care organizations, such as Sevita, can help parents figure out how to get children in care the help they need.

Behavioral Issues

Children in care may have behavioral issues — these often come from communication troubles, sensory sensitivities, or emotional struggles. 

Foster parents must remember to be patient and to address these behaviors the right way. Working closely with professionals, such as behavioral therapists is common, as they can offer guidance — behavioral health in children is crucial!

Support for Special Needs Foster Parents

When caring for children who may have medically complex needs, you don’t have to do it alone — there are support options for foster parents to provide the best possible care.  

Support Groups

Support groups play a crucial role in offering guidance, advice, and help to foster parents — whether they’re in person or online. 

These communities provide a platform for sharing experiences, looking for advice, and making connections with others who understand special needs foster care.

Case Workers and Therapists

Working with case workers, therapists, and other professionals creates a support system for the child. Foster parents must work closely with these people to ensure that a child's unique needs are met and that they receive the best care possible.

Learn How Mentor Foster Care Can Help With Special Needs Foster Care

Mentor Foster Care, a part of Sevita family, helps special needs foster parents provide the love and care that children need. Our medically complex foster care services create unique programs based on the needs of every individual child.

Discover how Mentor Foster Care can help today.

Learn More About Medically Complex Care

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