Ten years ago, Sarah and David* had a nice home in Sydney and a busy social life with a large circle of friends. They could go out to dinner, go to the movies or take a vacation when they felt like it. Then the couple made a life-changing decision that startled their friends and family: to foster children with special needs.

“There are so many kids who need foster homes, but the special needs kids are really hard to place and they need a loving home to help them reach their potential,” says Sarah.

Ten years ago, Sarah and David* had a nice home in Sydney and a busy social life with a large circle of friends. They could go out to dinner, go to the movies or take a vacation when they felt like it. Then the couple made a life-changing decision that startled their friends and family: to foster children with special needs.

“There are so many kids who need foster homes, but the special needs kids are really hard to place and they need a loving home to help them reach their potential,” says Sarah.

One of her uncles had an intellectual disability and had been fostered as a child, which is one reason why Sarah found herself drawn to little ones with special needs. “I wanted to make a difference,” she says.

David needed little convincing to come on board and was supportive from the start. The couple have made special needs kids under the age of 10 their passion and priority. “If you can get the special needs kids early enough, you can make a real difference to their lives,” adds David.

Currently they have two children with special needs living with them on a long-term basis. “When they smile or do something a kid of their age should be doing, it really makes it all worthwhile,” says Sarah.

David feels that it shouldn’t be up to his wife, who quit her job to foster, to shoulder the load alone. He has recently taken a 12-month leave of absence from his work to help Sarah with the children.

“It’s hard for Sarah to be home alone with the kids and it was getting silly with me constantly leaving early, so I thought this would be for the best. Fortunately, my boss was incredibly supportive of the plan.”

The couple say working with special needs children will leave you tired and drained so it is important to take regular breaks. Until recently they had focused on short-term care and that meant they could take a break when a child went back home. But now with long-term care, more planning is needed.

“We have a respite carer who comes in every two weeks so we can reconnect as a couple. The kids are usually asleep when we go out. This break allows us to go out to a restaurant and have some ‘us’ time,” says Sarah.

They have also made new friends through the fostering network in the area. “It’s great because these people know what we are going through like no one else can,” says David.

Both Sarah and David want to encourage more people to think about fostering kids with special needs. “The rewards of helping these kids are just huge,” says Sarah. “Life changing? You bet. It has enriched our lives and I know we have enriched theirs.”

*Names and whereabouts changed for privacy reasons.