Tusla Child and Family Agency provide you with the training and support to enable you to give a child a second chance at getting the best start in life. Open your home - open your heart
This week is the start of Fostering Fortnight - a campaign to raise awareness, share information and help recruit more foster carers.
Reporter Fiona Heavey met up with three different Leitrim foster carers to hear their personal stories about the care system.
There are a total of 87 foster carers on the Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan Foster Care Panel. 64 are general foster carers; 16 are relative foster carers and there are seven foster carers from private fostering agencies.
There are currently 102 children in foster care in Sligo/Leitrim/West Cavan and social worker Anne McGloin said they are “always on the look out for more foster carers.”
Marie is a relative foster carer, her four children had almost all turned 18 when she took in her eight year old relative.
Marie said “it was difficult adjusting on both sides; for her and for our family but in the long term it was worth it. Five years later we can really see the changes it made and she still has her identity in tact.”
Marie had lots of praise for social care workers and the support carers receive, “I was on the phone to them every day for the first while!”
Marie said a good routine and a secure home along with building trust are the most important pieces to the puzzle.
In another case Megan and her husband returned home to Leitrim after 20 years away, unable to have children of their own they looked into fostering but were wary about it having had no parenting experience.
“There was never a right time, until one day I just called up and asked for the application forms” she admits. Megan laughs, “we were no spring chickens and it was daunting,” but they enjoyed the training and tried out some respite care for children before they were asked to take two 12-year-old boys short term. Now almost 18 months later, Megan said it has been the “most rewarding thing of my life.”
She said her large extended family embraced the boys and the lads have really taken to having so much family who care for them. The boys have also brought new customs to her house from their native country, “they are proud of their heritage so we combine the two cultures.”
Megan said the boys meet their mother every week and that is important, she knows that there is a possibility they could return to their mother and while she will be “heartbroken” she will also be so happy for the boys. She added they will foster again as they have had such a positive experience.
As a ripple effect Megan said, “I have met a lot of friends since becoming a foster carer, I would have been very isolated before the boys.” Megan advised the most important thing is “love - if you have it, give it.”
Josie and Pete came to Leitrim to retire and after busy careers that had “no time for children” and they wanted to try foster care. The pair have been foster carers for over ten years and have had some “very difficult cases.” They said the majority of the children that were in their care turned out well. One child kept running away, one child “didn't do school,” while others had been abused.
While the pair admit some of it was “hard - we saw the benefits, we knew we could help them.”
They also had two boys for seven years and despite now being in third level colleges they come “home every weekend, they call us their parents.”
Josie is delighted to say they are in contact with almost all of the children who lived with them and “the kids are all in contact with each other, talking about their memories of family life with us!”
The couple said they felt the key to success was getting the children grounded in sport or groups locally. The biggest challenges were keeping the older teenagers in school.
All of the foster carers said “money doesn't come into it, we treat them like they are our own” and admit to spending more than the weekly allowance on them.
All the carers said they are “so proud” of the children they care for.
How to get started:
Call (071) 9149681 and a social worker will conduct an initial screening on the phone to assess your accomodation and family situation. After you fill out your details you will get a home visit before you are listed for training. After training you will be asked to formally apply and then placed on the register.
Local information sessions:
Information mornings will take place in:
- Family Resource Centre, Mohill Friday, March 8 11am - 1pm
- Café in Carrick Cineplex on Monday, March 11 11am - 1pm
- Primary Care Centre, Ballinamore on Thursday, March 14 11am - 1pm
Information evening will be held in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 11 at 7.30pm. All of the events will be facilitated jointly by foster carers and social workers. Come along and find out more.