HSC NI Foster Care celebrate Launch of The Fostering Network’s annual Foster Care Fortnight

11th May 2021
Fostercare Fortnight

HSC Northern Ireland Foster Care is making a fresh appeal for foster carers as they co-host the launch of The Fostering Network’s annual Foster Care FortnightTM , the largest celebration of foster care in Northern Ireland.

Around 2,780 children and young people are currently living in foster care, which represents a 4.8% increase in children in care since the beginning of the pandemic. With less people coming forward to offer foster homes, HSC NI Foster Care need foster carers more than ever.

“Foster Care Fortnight is an opportunity to raise awareness of the fantastic work of our foster carers. It’s also a time for reflection and looking forward with positivity,” says Una Carragher, Manager of HSC NI Foster Care Central Service.

“There is no doubt the past year has been very challenging due to the difficult circumstances Covid-19 pandemic has presented. We are deeply appreciative and thankful to all our dedicated foster carers across Northern Ireland who continue to go above and beyond daily to provide love, care and security to children and young people. We always need more foster carers and we are confident that generous members of the public will seriously consider foster care in the weeks and months ahead,” she continues.

Noeline and her husband Alistair from Belfast are shining examples of the commitment, passion and dedication of HSC foster carers. They have been caring for three siblings for nearly 8 years.

“Being a childminder meant I had always been around children throughout my career and really enjoyed their company and when my sister-in-law began to foster herself, I thought maybe we could do something to help children in need too,” says Noeline.

“We spoke to our own three children about the possibility and they really encouraged us to put ourselves forward. We didn’t necessarily intend to look after children long term from the outset, but we were sure that we wanted to help keep a sibling group together. It’s just how it worked out for us, and we wouldn’t change it all these years on.

Through their younger years they were a good support to one another. When they first came, two of them shared a bedroom. Of course they fought at times, like any brothers and sisters but ultimately they have been there for each other through thick and thin,” she adds.

The siblings are now 18, 16 and 15. “At the moment, it’s great – they’re at an age where they’re much more independent and like to do their own thing. We do try to make sure we do things together like have the odd movie at the weekend though it can be tricky to find something we all like to watch these days!

Alistair and I are in it together 100%. He makes sure he attends all the important events in their lives like school functions, careers meetings and provides a great taxi service for them! We also have a great support network around us and the siblings have good links with their own grandparents and birth father, which is important to them.

I’ve also attended quite a bit of training. The children have had different needs at different stages so we picked courses that we thought would help us help them. Fostering is a brilliant thing to do, I really enjoy them. Our house never cools!” she laughs.

Kathleen Toner, Director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, says: “Foster Care Fortnight is the perfect time for us to show how much we value and support foster carers across Northern Ireland.

“We have seen many acts of generosity and kindness since the current crisis began and this has included people reaching out to support vulnerable families. Becoming a foster carer would be an incredible way for people to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people.”

Belfast fostering team are hosting a virtual information event on Wednesday 19 May at 7.00 – 8.00pm for anyone in the Belfast area. Come along to find out about how you can help keep brothers and sisters together. To register for the event please call 0800 0720 137 or email: info@fostering.hscni.net

Visit www.adoptionandfostercare.hsnci.net to start your fostering journey today.