Kathleen Toner is the director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland and has written this blog for Foster Care Fortnight 2020
2020 will live long in the memory as the year of the coronavirus pandemic when the world tilted on its axis. As families everywhere strive to cope with the impact of lockdown; working from home, keeping apart from friends, family and loved ones, coping with the closure of schools, sports and leisure facilities, and many shops, there is no doubt the lockdown has brought particular challenges for fostering households.
However, while there have undoubtedly been many challenges as contact with birth families has moved online along with school lessons and playing with friends, the overall message has been one of positivity. Foster carers and kinship foster carers have told us that the lockdown has engendered a real feeling of belonging where “everyone is in this together”. We have heard stories of connection and reconnection, of having the time space away from the pressures of school to really bond, to get to understand each other better. This is something we need to hold onto when the restrictions lift.
The lockdown period has highlighted how important it is to care for and cherish our most vulnerable, something all foster carers do every day. 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. We know already that fostering services are reporting they are continuing to recruit and assess potential foster carers.
Foster Care Fortnight is the perfect time for us to show how much we value and support foster carers across Northern Ireland and I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every foster and kinship foster carer for the love and care you show to the children you look after.
As Karen, a foster carer for three boys in the Western Trust area, told us this week: 'It’s definitely unusual fostering in these extraordinary circumstances but I wouldn’t change it for the world.'
Becoming a foster carer is a very real way to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young people. This Foster Care Fortnight, take the time to consider fostering and make a real difference to a child’s future.