THE Fostering Network and the Regional Adoption and Fostering Service are issuing an urgent call for foster carers to help change the lives of children and young people across Northern Ireland.
Launching Foster Care Fortnight (13-26 May), Margaret Kelly, Northern Ireland Director of The Fostering Network, said that there is a need to recruit an estimated four foster carers each week in Northern Ireland, in order to keep up with rising demand: “In the last five years the overall numbers of children in care who are placed in foster care has increased by 18 per cent – for Northern Ireland this means that almost 2,000 children currently live in foster or approved kinship care.
“The stark truth is that many of these children and young people will have experienced real trauma and often not had a positive experience of family life. We are in the privileged position of hearing unique stories of the kindness, love, skill and devotion, which show how central foster carers are to delivering best outcomes for looked after children.”
There are currently 634 children in the Northern Trust who are classed as looked after children (residential, foster and kinship care). Of those 634 children in the Northern Trust, 329 are male and 305 are female.
The Fostering Network is the charity for foster carers, approved kinship carers and children and young people in foster care in Northern Ireland, providing advice, support, information and training, as well as working with key decision makers to ensure the right policies are in place to support foster care.
The Regional Adoption and Fostering Service (RAFS) work closely with the five HSC Trusts to recruit, support and provide learning and development opportunities for both foster carers and adoptive families across Northern Ireland.
“We are delighted to be working collaboratively with Fostering Network to raise awareness about the shortage of foster carers and recognise the ongoing commitment they make to children and young people. Fostering enables these children and young people to experience a stable home life where they can develop and grow,” said Una Carragher, Manager of RAFS.
The Fostering Network holds Foster Care Fortnight every year to both highlight and celebrate foster care and carers. This year they have joined with RAFS to work together to ensure children in Northern Ireland get the foster carers they need.
Margaret Kelly of The Fostering Network continued: “Around three quarters of all children in care (at 31 March 2012) are in foster or approved kinship care. This is the highest percentage of children in foster care ever in Northern Ireland and makes foster carers the single biggest provider of state care for children here.
“It’s also important to note that kinship care has increased exponentially in the last five years, increasing by 53 per cent between 2009 and 2011. In short, we urgently need local adults and families to provide loving and supportive homes for some of our most vulnerable children and young people.
“Foster Care Fortnight is a wonderful opportunity to recognise the contribution of highly valued foster and kinship carers, but also to make everyone aware of the role they could play: there is no legal minimum or upper age to become a foster carer; single people can foster - as well as married or cohabiting couples; and you don’t need to already be a parent.
“Furthermore, fostering certainly isn’t a ‘one-size-fits all’ scenario - there are many different types of fostering that people choose, according to lengths of time, certain ages, gender and ethnicity, and children with specific specialist needs.”
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer contact The Fostering Network on 02890705056, or the Regional Adoption and Fostering Service on 0800 072 136.