We are delighted to share the following news feature from last weeks Donegal News.
To mark Fostering Fortnight, which ran until March 20, the Donegal News spoke to a Donegal woman about her experience of growing up with parents who were foster carers and of becoming a foster carer herself.
Erin was ten years old when her parents got approval to become foster carers. Growing up in a home with children of all age groups and backgrounds meant she gained a wealth of knowledge, which ultimately helped her to make the decision to become a foster parent herself. Speaking about why she decided to take that big step, Erin said: “I was at a stage of my life that I had my little boy and we have a stable home. I have a very good husband and we have the spare rooms and we have the experience.”
Erin applied to become a foster carer with Origins Foster Care and on her journey Erin received a huge amount of support from the agency staff. Origins is a nationwide foster care agency set up specifically as a Fostering Agency to provide suitable placements for children in care. Origins is able to focus fully on the task of supporting and supervising foster carers in their role and ensuring that they have everything they need to support the young people in their care. They offer a 24/7 on call service as part of this. “I found the agency is very helpful in terms of the level, depth and variety of training and support you can get from them,” said Erin.
Part of the role of the agency team involves matching children coming into care with foster families, taking into consideration their ages, lifestyles and schedules. “In my case it was a very good match. The children all get their set time with us because they are all at different stages in their education and age groups and their extra curricular activities are different.”
Erin is focused on long term foster caring which involves committing to the child until they reach adulthood but there are varying lengths of placements needed. “I think a crucial part of fostering is respite which maybe a lot of people are not aware of where you open your home to a child that is living in a foster placement elsewhere. “You are a crucial part because although you may only be looking after them for a few days or a month at a time you are providing the foster carer with a break and time to recuperate.”
The journey to become a foster carer involves a lengthy assessment process but Erin says it can be very rewarding. “I would say go into it as open minded as possible and be prepared to come across things you had not anticipated, the good and bad, challenging and rewarding,” she said.
“It has been fantastically rewarding in areas that I hadn’t thought. The children came to me with absolutely no ambition on education and very low self esteem. “They are certainly developing a good sense of self now. They came believing that they couldn’t read or write and the youngest has moved up three reading schemes in the last couple of months. They have learned to swim and they are part of a soccer team. “It’s about giving the children a chance to feel part of something, to find out who they are and what they are interested in and that they can be good at things when they have that support. To even give them a taste of that can improve their lives so much. If you have never experienced feeling valued just to have that even for a weekend can be phenomenal for these kids.”
Clare Gleeson, Recruitment and Assessment Team Leader with Origins Foster Care, explained some of the criteria involved for those interested in becoming foster carers. You need to be over 25, have a permanent residency in Ireland, Garda Vetting will be completed as part of the assessment, have a spare bedroom, be medically fit and have a full clean driving licence. The carer needs to be available to facilitate transport for access between the birth family and the child which varies from case to case. Ms. Gleeson said they welcome applications from far and wide and said applicants do not have to be married or be a homeowner. Origins welcomes applications from same-sex couples, single people, separated/ widowed, married couples. If you are applying as a couple you must be in the relationship for five years to ensure it is stable. If you have a child living in the home they should be over the age of four. However, there are some variations to this guidance in some cases.
The first step in becoming a foster carer is to make an enquiry by phone, email or Facebook. You will then be contacted by one of the team and invited along to an information meeting. A screening visit will then be arranged to meet the potential foster carers and begin the assessment process. You will be allocated a senior social worker to carry out the assessment. The assessment process will take 16 weeks with a social worker carrying out between 10 to 12 home visits to find out everything about you and what type of child you would be most suited to. “We try to prepare them for the challenges ahead, we don’t sugar-coat anything,” said Ms Gleeson. “We offer 24/7 support from qualified social workers. Our foster carers can pick up the phone at any time. We run support groups for our foster carers and run a very good calendar of training.” Attendance at Foundations for Fostering training is mandatory for prospective foster carers.
Origins Foster Care held an Information Evening on Thursday 24th March. The evening was hosted by Clare Gleeson, Assessment Team Leader and foster carer Erin also joined the call to share her journey.
If you would like to find out more information on becoming a foster carer, please text or call Eithne on 08700529749 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reach out for any questions and enquiries. A member of our fostering team will get back to you as soon as possible.