A fresh appeal for foster carers in Northern Ireland has been made following the launch of a major new region-wide fostering service.
The service, provided by HSC Northern Ireland Adoption and Foster Care (HSC NIAFC), covers all health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland and aims to simplify the process for those considering becoming foster carers.
Una Carragher, principal social worker, HSC NIAFC, said more than 3,300 children and young people are in need of foster care in Northern Ireland, so there is a huge need for more carers to come forward:
‘Foster carers are ordinary people who are willing to open up their hearts and homes to provide care to other people’s children.
‘They will offer a safe and secure home where children feel valued, respected and cared for. For some children and young people this will be for only a short period of time, whilst others require a home for a longer period.
‘The need is huge here in Northern Ireland and we appreciate it’s not a decision which can be taken lightly. Fostering is a commitment which requires careful consideration and we know from experience that it throws up many questions and potential barriers.
‘With our new campaign, we’re taking a transformative approach to break down these barriers, to answer questions and provide information, training and support even before any commitment is made.
‘The key message is that if anyone is even thinking about fostering, we would love to hear from them. We’re aiming to make that as easy as possible with a single hotline and our new user-friendly website.
‘Our team is here to answer any questions, to allay concerns and to provide support for these really important carers.’
Foster carer Richard Dougherty, has been working with HSC NIAFC for more than 13 years and is encouraging everyone to consider fostering.
‘Fostering has been a great experience for my whole family. Our own children have grown up with fostering, and have developed skills such as empathy, kindness and compassion. It’s great to make memories with the children and young people and share birthdays.”
‘Don’t rule yourself out. There are many myths around fostering, but I would ask everyone to consider it. People from all walks of life can and do foster.
‘There are challenges, but they are usually small and can be overcome with support from your social worker, and there are great ongoing training opportunities. Don’t let the challenges put you off, to give a child a brighter future is the most rewarding thing you could do.’
Eilis McDaniel, director of Family and Children’s Policy at Department of Health NI said: ‘We need a fresh approach to the recruitment of foster carers, to move away from how we have always done things to doing something new; to transform.
‘For the first time in Northern Ireland, we will have one regional health and social care brand for foster care and one single point of contact for enquiries, information and referral.’
HSC Northern Ireland Adoption and Foster Care welcome enquires regardless of race, religion, language, culture, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation and they provide 24-hour support to all foster carers on an ongoing basis.
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