Interview by Clio Arbuthnott.

Care Visions foster carer Doreen shares how 16-year-old Courtney overcame the obstacles to become a Special Olympics ice-skating athlete

“We first met Courtney 10 years ago. She was six – so petite. She was living in one of Care Visions’ residential homes at the time, and she was so keen to show us her bedroom, have dinner with us. She struck me as a girl who just wanted to be loved.”

“My husband and I decided to foster after our own two boys had flown the nest. Our house felt empty. Having children kept us young, and we both felt we had a lot more to offer a child: a loving home, time and energy. The assessment process took ten months. You need all that time to adjust to the fact that there is somebody who’s going to come into your home facing various difficulties in life. You need to think about the impact of that on you and your family, and how you would cope.”

“Courtney was an incredibly affectionate, yet intense child. She had problems socialising with other children. She was diagnosed with global development delay, which means she is intellectually behind in comparison to her peer group. This, and all the associated behaviour, is a result of neglect in her early years. She didn’t get the nurturing that every baby ought to have, like smiles and cuddles. She showed no emotion… It took a long time for her to know it’s OK to cry.”

“We helped her discover interests, and pursue them. She enjoyed swimming – we found a club for swimmers with disabilities, and she excelled, winning gold in competitions. Two years ago, she also joined an ice-skating club, and showed potential. She loved it. It wasn’t very long before she was offered the chance to register for the Special Olympics. She gave up swimming to focus on that.”

“This year, Courtney has been selected to be a member of the Team GB’s first ever ice-skating team in the Winter Special Olympics, taking place in Austria. Her confidence – she is like a different person when she skates. She made good friends through her club, and calls them her ‘ice-skating family’. Her enthusiasm for the sport rubbed off on all of us, and we’re so excited, and proud of her.”

“This made us realise that we had made a difference to a child’s life; Courtney knows she is safe in our home, she has happy childhood memories, and she has found something that she loves. We’ve instilled in her the drive to do her best, and her achievements are all her own.”

“That’s not to say that it’s been easy. But despite the demands of a hair-conscious 16-year-old girl, I’d say all the issues are outweighed by her progress.”