Mervyn Young from Burnfoot, outside Dungiven, says the motto for his home is simple.
“Our door is always open and, if we can give a child a home, we will,” says Mervyn.
Mervyn and his wife Margaret have three children of their own, and have been fostering for a number of years. Currently they are fostering two children.
“I always wanted to foster,” said Margaret. “I just think if you can give a child a home and you have a home, you should. If I had a bigger house I would fill it.”
The couple say they treat children they foster like their own, and that means the same rules apply to everyone.
“You won’t and don’t try to replace their parents, but you make them feel at home, set boundaries and treat them like your own,” said Margaret.
What the couple find most fulfilling is seeing the progress made and confidence gained by children who come into their care.
“You know when they’re settled,” said Margaret, “and the social workers are great. I know no matter what it is, help and advice is just a phone call away. They have been brilliant.”
Mervyn says agreeing to foster is a big responsibility, but says the fulfilment gained by foster carers and children is extremely gratifying.
“As long as we can, we will give a child a home until they are able to return to their parents,” said Mervyn. “Our door is always open. That’s our motto.”
Currently, the Western Trust is holding information sessions for people interested in fostering and this week held sessions in Limavady and in Derry.
“Fostering provides children who cannot live with their own families with alternative care where they can benefit from a loving, safe and stable home for as long as they need it,” said a Trust spokesperson.
“There are approximately 290 children and young people living with foster carers in the Western Trust area. We have children of all ages in the western area who urgently need foster homes on a short and long term basis. We need a broad range of foster carers to meet the demand of children requiring a foster placement and allow them to be placed with the most suitable carers, limiting disruption and instability in children’s lives. Our foster carers receive ongoing training, financial allowances and 24 hour fostering social work support. We want to find the right home for our vulnerable children.”
For information about how to become a foster carer, call 028 7131 4244 (Limavady, Derry and Strabane areas) or visit www.adoptionandfostering.hscni.net for more information.