This week is National Foster Care Week – a celebration of foster carers and children who live in foster families. Foster carers often carry out a more challenging but equally rewarding role when they parent a child who is not their own, but needs love and care just the same as all other children.
While we know that parenting is the most important job in the world, at times it can also be the most difficult! Everyone’s experience is unique and there is no manual the covers all the ups and downs of being a parents. For fosterers, they care for children who come into care feeling vulnerable and sometimes traumatised. They need to be cared for by people who have an understanding of a child’s emotional, intellectual and cultural needs, have empathy and patience, have the ability to give praise and build self-esteem and have resilience in order to meet the challenges of fostering a child. Communication and listening skills are also important in building strong relationships. These are qualities that exist in us all as parents. The chances are you will know some foster carers and they are no different from you and me. They come in all shapes and sizes and are truly representative of society as a whole.
Children can come into care for a whole variety of reasons, but the one common theme is that for some reason their parents, who love them, are unable to provide them with enough care to meet their needs. This is where foster carers play a vital role in caring for children who need alternative care.
In the past in Ireland children whose parents could not adequately care for them were placed in residential institutions. Thankfully those days are gone and Ireland is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of percentages of children who are in foster care. Approximately 96% of children in care are in foster care with 4% placed in residential care. In Ireland the care system is totally dependent on having enough foster carers to meet and support vulnerable children. This means that there is always a need for foster carers.
To support foster carers enable the child in care to thrive and to ensure money is not a barrier, a weekly allowance to cover all costs is provided for the carer. Social work support is provided separately for both the child and the foster carer to help the carers, their family and the child to settle in and grow. Training is provided before a thorough assessment is carried out and once approved by the Foster Care Committee on going training is provided by The Child and Family Agency. Often it is immensely rewarding for carers who provide a safe and secure home for children who have not experienced stability and security.
This article was contributed by Tusla Fostering Services. Tusla are a member of Parenting Limerick, a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.