Jon Powton lives in Burnley, Lancashire, with his wife and two foster children. Diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy at the age of 17, he has also become a shared life carer for vulnerable adults and is encouraging other people with disabilities to do the same.
He said: “We’ve had the kids who are eight and six, for five years. They will be with us until they’re 18, and we’ve just welcomed a new addition into our home, a 19-year-old with learning difficulties.
“I would really recommend it to people with disabilities. Fostering is something that you can do at home and if you have the time and the skills then it can be a great fit.
“There’s a national shortage of about 11,000 foster parents, but there are 11 million disabled people who might be able to help. I’m trying to raise awareness of the fact it won’t count against you, that you can be disabled and foster.
“There are so many people with disabilities who struggle to find employment and suffer prejudice, and this is a good solution to that. Many have raised their own children and have the skill set that is needed.
“My wife Denise and I made a conscious decision not to have our own kids as I didn’t want to risk passing Becker on. Maybe that sounds selfish, but it was a personal choice.
“When I received my diagnosis, it was earth-shattering. I’d only just started doing an engineering apprenticeship and I felt like my life had been turned upside down
“I wasn’t offered any emotional support, I was just told to get on with it. I decided to take a year out from my college course – it was a difficult time.
“I worked as a successful engineer all over the country, but as the years went by, I could feel my symptoms worsening. My legs were getting heavier, and would buckle and give way, and I was starting to find it harder to get around. In 2002, I was made redundant, and after that I started working as a Property Developer.
“For me, it’s about taking one day at a time. You either curl up and wither, or you don’t. The only way to create a better, healthier and longer lasting life is by trying. It’s about self-motivation, creating a positive outlook and the ability to strive to achieve something. It’s different for everyone – you have to find what makes you happy and pursue it.
“I also want people to know about the invaluable support that Muscular Dystrophy UK offers. There can be times when things can get on top of us as a family, and times when we need practical advice on things like housing adaptions – it is great to know that we can count on the charity’s support.”
To find out more about becoming a foster carer, contact visit the National Fostering Agency’s website: http://www.nfa.co.uk/