A Social Work Manager for the Western Trust’s Fostering Team has said that the current demand for foster placements is “unprecedented”.
Wendy Maguire has been Social Work Manager for the Trust’s Foster Care Support and Development Team for the past 14 years and has said that a “growing imbalance” between need and available foster homes is resulting in the separation of very young brothers and sisters.
Children may also endure a number of moves from one foster family to another until a longer term placement can be found.
“The long term detrimental implications of these factors on young children is extremely sad and worrying,” the Trust’s fostering team have warned.
The issues are being experienced across the Western Trust, in common with other Trusts across Northern Ireland, with information evenings planned for Derry and Strabane this week for those interested in becoming foster carers.
Wendy said: “When children cannot remain with their birth families they need short term foster placements whilst Social Workers and allied professionals strive tirelessly in the first instance, to enable parent to achieve positive and lasting change.
“Unfortunately this is not always achievable, therefore for some children a return home is not deemed to be in their best interests and they will need to live with a foster family on a longer term basis.”
Wendy has called for more foster families from the local area so that children who cannot remain with their birth families can at least remain within a loving home close to their communities and their schools so they can maintain friendships and links with what is familiar to them.
Examples of only some of the children currently waiting for foster families in the local area include a “lovely nine-year-old girl who needs a family where there are no other young children, brothers aged eight and five years, brothers aged seven and 14 years and a young boy aged 12 years”.
“We also need foster carers who are available to care for newborn and very young babies,” Wendy said. “This type of fostering is suited to foster carers who are at home full-time and who can manage night feeds and all the other routine demands and joys of caring for a baby.”
Wendy explained that different types of fostering suits different foster carers. Some foster carers can provide a home for more than one child, some may be working and feel that a school age child would fit in better with their family, others just aren’t sure yet. This is something that the assessing Social Worker helps applicants explore.
Wendy was keen to emphasise that Foster Carers are very well supported in their role. She manages a team of very experienced Supervising Social Workers whose role is to support and train Trust foster carers.
A supervising Social Worker is allocated to each Foster Carer as soon as they are approved. This support is critical so that foster carers do not feel they are left ‘on their own’ and it also enables them to develop their knowledge and skills so that they can provide the very best care and understanding to the vulnerable child who joins their family. Out of hours support is also available.
Fostering is about ‘Ordinary people doing an extraordinary job’. The Western Trust is continuously appealing to people from ‘all walks of life’ who have the time, patience, and energy to consider if they can open their homes and their hearts to children needing families.
To find out more about becoming a Foster Carer go along to Fir Trees Hotel, Strabane on Tuesday, October 11 at 7.30pm or Da Vinci’s Hotel, Derry on Thursday, October 13, at 7.30pm.