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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 June, 2018
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'We've fostered 15 children, in the beginning I thought we were going to save the world'

“The most rewarding thing about fostering is seeing the potential in children that was sometimes overlooked when they were younger.”

Anonymous

I HAVE ALWAYS loved children and both my husband and I were raised in loving and nurturing environments by single parents.

This instilled in me a belief that every young person has an entitlement to feel loved, valued and secure regardless of personal circumstances.

I was at home full time caring for my three children and also doing some child-minding when I saw an advert in the local paper looking for foster carers.

I knew there were loads of children who deserved what my own children would get, and we had the room in both ourselves and our home. My husband was probably dragged with me on our initial fostering journey but he was 100% supportive and quickly became totally on board.

That was at the end of 2006 and since then we’ve gone on to foster 15 children and young people. Some children have only needed to stay with us for a few weeks and some stayed with us for years. They were all different ages and they all had different needs.

In the beginning I thought we were going to save the world. However, the reality is that the young people we’ve fostered have done more for us as a family than we could have ever imagined.

‘We are a family who fosters’

At the start, we were anxious about how fostering would impact on our own children and we didn’t think about all the positives that young people bring to a household.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been challenges along the way as well. When a placement begins, it can be an unsettling time for everyone in the house. What we do is ensure that each child, birth and fostered, has their own space in the family and that this is protected.

We plan and prepare for each new placement with our children. We talk it through together as a family because we all foster, it is not just something my husband and I do, we are a family who fosters.

The children also write letters to the prospective children telling them how much they are looking forward to sharing their home with them. This can make the move to a strange house with new people a lot easier for a child if they know that the other children in the house want them to be there.

Our extended families on both sides have also been extremely supportive of our fostering. Any children in our care are always included in extended family occasions like weddings, communions and birthday celebrations.

Equally we have been able to turn to family in tough times for a lending ear, of course they question our continuing to foster at these times, but our decision to continue is always respected.

My father moved into our home for care reasons two years ago and both my current and past foster children refer to him as granddad.

‘Not saving people, but keeping them safe’

The most rewarding thing about fostering is seeing the potential in children that was sometimes overlooked when they were younger. It’s a real privilege to see this potential blossom through nurturing and support and for them to reach a target that they would previously never have dreamt of.

I was privileged to recently play a key role in the wedding ceremony of a young woman we had previously cared for, in the absence of her birth family. We continue to be involved in key events in her life such as the births of her children.

My daughter is also going on holidays with our first foster child soon. This child has not lived with us constantly for the past five years but has celebrated every Christmas with us since moving on.

My misconception of fostering when we began was that we were going to change young people’s lives and save them. My reality now is that changing the world for these young people is not the challenge, it’s accepting the world through their norms.

This for us means fostering not just the young person but also their beliefs, values and their families norms and values and finding a safe and healthy way to merge this with our own families norms and values.

We are not tasked with saving these young people but keeping them safe, reaching this realisation takes time, experience and a lot of hard work. For us as a family the wonderful young people who we now consider family certainly outweighs the challenges we’ve met along the way.

Fostering First Ireland (FFI) are hosting awareness week events across the country from 26 February – 2 March.

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