Date Published: 12th May, 2021
This year, the 10th-23rd of May marks Foster Care Fortnight: an annual campaign which highlights the power of fostering and the fostering community. These two weeks offer a chance to consider the passion, dedication and commitment that is practised by Foster Carers everyday whilst also highlighting the need for more people to consider giving it a go.
The theme of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight is #WhyWeCare. It was chosen by fostering families across the UK.
We caught up with two Foster care families in Northern Ireland who were kind enough to tell us how Foster care had changed their lives for the better.
Kathy, Olivia and Eva
Kathy and her two daughters Olivia and Eva have been fostering children for over 14 years. Kathy is a professional foster carer,
How has Fostering Changed Your Lives?
Eva: We haven’t known any different…we’ve always had someone here and it’s weird now when we don’t have someone in the house, it just feels too quiet… I think it’s affected my life in a good way.
Olivia: It has given me a better awareness of relationships, people and family dynamics and how that works and has an influence – it’s been really interesting.
Kathy: It was a decision I made when I wanted to go into social work, but I had two young children. I just kept seeing ads coming up for fostering and thought – ‘well I’ll give that a go’.
There is a big gap between younger foster children and those from about the age of 12 up to adulthood. A lot of foster carers won’t take teenagers so they try to create schemes where they train you up so I thought I’ll just give it a go.
The first child we got was a huge 14 year old boy from Derry/Londonderry and I thought oh my word what am I going to do with this guy – he was hugely tall and I had two little girls at home. From that day on it has really been a huge learning curve, it’s been an asset to our family in lots of ways… it was very different to most family lives.
What would you tell other adults who were thinking of Fostering?
Kathy: When people ask what you do and I tell them I’m a foster carer, everyone says ‘oh I’ve always wanted to do that’ or ‘I’d like to do that’ – my thing to say would be yes why not, just make that phone call.
There are so many myths around fostering such as loads of troubled children. When you read about a child before they come, you really don’t know what to expect and generally it’s just a frightened child. If people could see past the bad press that adolescents get and just give it a go. It is worth making that first call and getting someone to talk to you about what fostering would be like for each individual rather than what other people are saying about fostering.
Olivia: I think that as mum said, just enquire to see what would work for you. Once you read about the child on paper, it does sound pretty bad sometimes but when they come, it’s nothing like that at all. It needs to be all kept in perspective so phone to see if it could work for you and your family.
How do you manage online safety as a foster carer and is there information and support available?
Kathy: The app [HSC Fostering by Ineqe] is a huge help to all foster carers, we use the app all the time because it’s so up to date and user friendly with good step by step guides. The online world is a real minefield!
Is there anything that you tell a child who is maybe coming into a foster environment?
Eva: We aren’t that scary!
Kathy: I’d tell them that they’re safe, that we care about them, we’re not their parents but we’re here to look after them. It’s important to remind them that they still have their parents, and they are very important people and it’s never the child’s fault that they have come into care.