Kathleen Toner is The Fostering Network's director in Northern Ireland. Here, as part of Foster Care Fortnight, she reflects on the impact that the foster and kinship foster families have on the lives of the children and young people in their care
Having just returned from a course on creative writing and starting to write this blog I was moved to consider what the word “fostering” actually means.
Legislative definitions aside, the dictionary says that to foster is to “encourage the development of something, especially something desirable” or to “bring up a child that is not one’s own by birth”.
In my job as director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland every day I meet foster carers who do all these things and more.
I have just had the privilege again recently of meeting foster and kinship foster carers nominated for our awards in Northern Ireland and I never fail to be inspired by them.
They were reflective of every part of our community - teachers, community workers, farmers, nurses, homemakers, civil servants, lone carers, people who work outside of the home and people who don’t.
All of them said they foster because they love what they do. They love the children they care for, they want to help them to grow and develop, be there for them, provide them with a safe haven, listen to them, play with them, help them with school, encourage them to take risks and to make friends, help them build coping skills as well as learn how to make bread or pizza or bake a cake.
This Foster Care Fortnight we are encouraging people to take pride in supporting foster care and to think about becoming one of the more than 50,000 foster families across the UK who, alongside social workers, teachers and other family members, strive to nurture children and young people who can’t live with their birth family for a variety of reasons.
Our campaign this year aligns completely with the array of foster carers I met, all of whom were proud to foster and all of whom are at the heart of our communities making a difference to children and young people who are our future. Thank you to them and every foster and kinship foster family in Northern Ireland.