Feature

Fostering: Open your heart and your home

Fiona Heavey

Reporter:

Fiona Heavey

Fostering: Open your hear and your home

Visit www.tusla.ie for more information on fostering

Have you ever thought about fostering, opening your home, your family and your heart to children in need?


More foster carers are needed in Leitrim and you could make a difference, help a child and change a life.
The Leitrim Observer met with two local couples last week who have been fostering children in the region for years.
Both couples said that giving your time and care to a child in need of stability is “the most rewarding thing you can do.”


Anne McGloin, Team Leader, Foster Care Resource Service, Alternative Care Department said “We need to recruit more, we want a strong pool to allow for easier family matching.” Anne explains when a foster placement is needed the agency tries to match the children in the most suitable family, all efforts are made to keep children within a good distance of schools, relatives and their known environment.
She explained that children from birth to 18 years may need foster care for a variety of time from a few days to a number of years, it can be due to neglect, abuse at home, mental health problems, addictions etc.

Anne said it is always hoped that the placement will be for a “limited time” everyone works to get the children back to their original families but sometimes that is not safe or possible.
Both couples who met with us started to foster after seeing notices in the Leitrim Observer.
For many it is something they want to do but need a nudge to get the ball rolling.
Kate and Noel have been fostering for 12 years, they had three children and the idea became a reality when their youngest was 17.


They started with a private agency and then moved to Tusla. They cared for a number of children short term before getting a long term placement. Two little boys stayed with the couple for a few months, they went back to their original parents for awhile only to return again to Kate and Noel - six years on the boys are very much part of the family and have been issued long term foster plans,
“It is so rewarding, there are ups and downs, like with your own kids, but you grow to love them and they grow to love you.”
The couple have also had children on asylum who don’t speak any English but Kate laughed “we learned to understand each other!”


The biggest question about foster care is how do you cope when the kids have to leave you?
Both families gave the most heart warming answers, and agreed “you never lose them.”
The foster families say once you have made a bond with the child you never lose them, they will return, keep in contact and remember the impact you made on their lives at a vulnerable time.
Noreen and Christy told the paper that for Christmas last year it was their foster children not their own biological kids who joined them for dinner.


The couple have been fostering for 30 years; they started when their youngest was 7 years old and said it benefited their whole family. It allowed their own children to experience life outside their own nest, to be compassionate and to appreciate what they had.
For the foster children it gave them stability and a more rounded experience, it allowed them to integrate easier.


Noreen said she has contact with every child she cared for long term, she was delighted to say they had a wedding invite from one girl they cared for 23 years ago.
Noreen was proud to say that all but two of the children in their long term care went on to third level education.


Noreen also told the paper “Amazingly some of the most troubled children get the most benefit from foster care.”
Noel said stability and routine are the things most children fight, but is essentially what they need.
“Some have been the parent and need to learn to be children again” explained Noreen.
Both couples praised the training and support provided to help you approach different subjects with children
Both couples are members of the Irish Foster Care Association, and take part in national and international training events.

The next step - how to get involved

If this feature has sparked an interest within you to foster, then pick up the phone now and register your interest.
Call Child and Family Agency, Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan, Markievicz House, Sligo on 071 9149681.


The next step is a screening by a social worker at your home, your circumstances are assessed and you will be invited to a training course which is eight half days held in September/ October each year.


If you are still interested you can make a formal application after training and some more checks are made before you are accepted.
Before you receive a child into your home an approved plan is discussed with you. During the child’s stay s/he will have a social worker and you too will have a social worker for your family. These social workers are there to provide support to you.


Additional training will be available. For more information visit: www.tusla.ie or www.ifca.ie