It’s May, so it’s Foster Care Fortnight and I love this year’s theme, ‘Change a future’.
Foster carers are essentially optimists who believe in children; who believe in their futures; and who passionately believe that each child has the right to look to the future with hope.
Foster carers play an essential role, helping transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in our society who can’t live with their birth family for a variety of reasons.
We continue to need more people to consider becoming foster carers across Northern Ireland who can change the future for a child.
This year, the number of foster carers needed in Northern Ireland has increased. We need at least 250 new foster carers this year who will work with social workers, teachers and wider family members within their local communities to provide children with stability, safety and opportunities to grow and develop.
I have had the privilege for the last six years of being involved in the delivery of an educationally focused service for looked after children in foster care which aims to improve educational outcomes. We are all familiar with the statistics that looked after children do less well at school than children in the wider population. The Fostering Attainment and Achievement service, delivered by The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, commissioned by the Health and Social Care Board, provides a lens for us to see how important the role of the foster carer is in encouraging children to engage in learning.
Encouraging children to learn is one of many challenges that foster carers embrace and one which can make a real difference to the lives of individual children. We see foster carers everyday who do just that and we see the impact this encouragement has on the children they look after.
Director - The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland
Children and young people who have experience of foster care tell us how important it is to feel loved, valued and supported and this is especially true when they are facing difficult choices, at times of change and when they have to make life decisions about education, training or employment. Decisions which will impact on their futures.
All children have skills, talents, ideas, passions, hopes, ideals and ambitions which can be nurtured and encouraged, which contribute to sense of wellbeing and achievement. Foster carers from all walks of life play a key role in “fostering” these aspects of children and young people’s personalities and make a huge contribution to the lives of individual children every day across Northern Ireland.
Foster carers love the children they care for, they want to help them to grow and develop, they want to 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 valuable life skills such as cooking, cleaning and budgeting.
I want to thank you and your families for all that you do every day to support young people and to raise awareness of the importance of fostering and the need for more people to consider this in Northern Ireland.