The Irish Foster Care Association’s annual campaign to raise awareness and understanding of foster care in Ireland is presently taking place.
Running from March 2 to 15, Fostering Fortnight highlights the valuable contributions made in fostering families daily.
It’s a chance for those involved in fostering, and the communities that support them, to tell their stories.
Here one Leitrim couple, Peter and Jose, tell their story through a series of questions posed to them (names have been changed in the interest of privacy):
What motivated them to become foster carers?
The couple said they always had it in their mind to foster, even before they got married - to give something back because of their gratitude for what they have in life.
Jose said she worked as a child-minder and saw foster children attend the crèche. The foster carers said they have two healthy children and felt it was a good time in their lives to apply to become foster carers and never regretted it.
What are some highlights of their fostering experience?
The couple stated they have their foster child for the last eight years, coming to them when he was two years old. Peter and Jose shared how they feel lucky because this child makes the family happy every day as they see him grow, attend school, engage in activities with his friends, and be part of the community. The couple stated they are hugely proud of their foster child.
Has fostering impacted their family dynamic in any way?
The foster carers stated that their family were always supportive of the intention to foster.
The couple said they discussed their plan to become foster carers with their children who agreed to it before they applied.
Peter and Jose noted that their children were happy to have another child, a new brother or sister for them, become part of their family.
The couple highlighted that having a foster child has made the family become more aware of diversity and to acknowledge the importance of family.
They specified that “everything about life is not all straight forward; there are families and children out there who need support”.
The foster carers maintained that their children learned from the experience, they now understand there are children who need a caring and loving home and they, as a family, are glad to make it possible.
The foster carers stated they have developed a good relationship with their foster child's biological mother and are non-judgemental - which is not easy in most cases but they did it in the child's interest.
The couple said they encourage their foster child to have contact with his mother, which in their view makes the child more secure and settled in their care; he is aware he has both a biological parent and foster parents.
What advice can they give to people thinking about fostering?
Peter and Jose stated if you are a caring family and have a home where you can care for children who need it, please apply and follow the process. There is support available to bring you through every step you take from the moment you call the Foster Care Resource Service.
For example, there are social workers for the child and a link social worker for foster carers who are always there on the telephone to listen and support you if required.
There is pre and post-approval training provided to all prospective foster carers in order to better understand what is involved before you decide to foster a child. The foster carers stressed that they are having a positive experience of fostering.
The couple said that often people comment that the foster child is lucky to have them as foster parents. However, they stress it is the other way round; they feel blessed because they made the right decision to be foster carers, and fostering has “enriched their lives as a family.”
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