Foster carer Dianne features in our new BBC appeal that aired on Northern Ireland television today. The film called for more people to consider fostering and change the lives of more children in care. It also looked at Step Up Step Down, which is a pioneering project, run by The Fostering Network in partnership with the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust and funded by the Big Lottery, aiming to prevent children who are on the periphery of the care system from being taken into care. Dianne tells us more about her work with Step Up Step Down and her experiences being a foster carer.
I have been a foster carer for almost 10 years and I always have to pause and think when people ask me the question, ‘why foster?’ On days when I face many challenges I find myself asking the same question, then it all becomes clear when I receive that one little card that says ‘I love you’ from a child who struggles to love, or when standing at a prize night watching your foster child, who has had issue after issue, walk up to receive a prize.
As my foster children are now a lot older and don’t need as much of my attention I started to ask myself ‘what now?’ A new scheme was brought to my attention that was looking for foster carers to work alongside families who are experiencing difficulties. Through my past experiences working with families and children who are in care I often wondered, what if that family had a service like this? It’s a service that offers consistent support and steps up at a time of crisis and steps down when things are working well. It’s a support that doesn’t disappear after a number of weeks but stays with them for around a year to give the family a chance to make that change. Would things be different for them? Would the children have ended up in care?
I have been a family support foster carer with Step Up Step Down since the start of November 2016. I have really enjoyed building up relationships with up to four families, helping them to figure out difficulties and to make positive changes in their families’ lives. It has also been a joy to provide short breaks for the children in the families who are between 8 and 12 years old. None of this would be possible without the amazing network of support within Step Up Step Down. Even though I am a lone worker I am never on my own.
Missed the appeal? You can watch it again on Monday 20 March at 11.45pm on BBC One NI, on Wednesday 22 March at 1pm on BBC Two NI or online on the BBC website.