The richly rewarding experience of fostering

Attending the launch of Fostering Fortnight at the house Hotel were, back from left: Anne Dowd, Foster Carer, Treasurer IFCA, Galway Branch; Lorraine Corcoran, Foster Carer; Niamh Bonner, Foster Carer and Chairperson IFCA, Galway Branch; Cathy Burke, Foster Carer and Secretary IFCA, Galway. Front: Margaret Geoghegan, Foster Carer. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Attending the launch of Fostering Fortnight at the house Hotel were, back from left: Anne Dowd, Foster Carer, Treasurer IFCA, Galway Branch; Lorraine Corcoran, Foster Carer; Niamh Bonner, Foster Carer and Chairperson IFCA, Galway Branch; Cathy Burke, Foster Carer and Secretary IFCA, Galway. Front: Margaret Geoghegan, Foster Carer. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – About 200 families in Galway are currently fostering children, from babies to teenagers, providing care that their own parents, for a variety of reasons, cannot give. Bernie Ní Fhlatharta talked to some of the people behind Fostering Fortnight and learned of the training and support structures available for these families.

The demand for foster carers never ends as there are always children who need care when their own families can’t for one reason or another provide it. Anyone can apply to be a foster carer though there is obviously a vigorous assessment process to establish people’s suitability and ability to care for a child.

There are about 200 families fostering in Galway city and county and a third of these are relative carers. Indeed, Túsla, the Child and Family Agency, always consider relatives first to lessen disruption in a child’s life. However, relatives, too, are assessed and may not be suitable.

Potential foster carers are expected to complete the Foundation in Fostering Course which takes three to four days. This training covers children’s development and attachment, birth family and contact and how to work with Túsla.

Mary Corbett, Fostering Social Worker with Túsla, stresses that the whole family has to be open to fostering, including their own children, who are included in the overall assessment.

“Potential foster carers can specify whether they are interested in babies, school going children, teenagers or mother and baby placements.

“It is recommended that children to be placed with a foster family would be two years younger than the youngest child in the foster family.

“We provide training and follow up support to give a child a second chance getting the best start in life.”

Cathy Burke, Secretary of the Galway Branch of the Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) and a foster parent herself, said it was challenging but very worthwhile.

She said that foster carers were a diverse group of people from all walks of life who could be single, married, co-habiting, in a same sex relationship, employed, unemployed or retired.

The idea is to have carers from different cultures from different walks of life to make it easier to match children and young people with suitable carers.

Cathy, a mother of one, said having peer support through IFCA was very important to her.

And like minding your own children, she added, you needed time and energy and an interest in raising children as well as patience because sometimes it took time for a child in care to respond to their foster family.

At least one adult has to be available to care for the child on a full-time basis and allowances are paid per foster child, though Cathy stresses that nobody does it for the money.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.