A Derry woman has described how she fell in love with fostering as a new campaign is launched to encourage more people to become foster carers.
Erica Callaghan was working for the Western Health and Social Care Trust as a Behaviour Therapist when she first met her foster child ‘John’ (name changed).
Erica and her husband Aidan decided to explore the option of fostering six years ago, and they have since gone on to provide a loving and stable home for the boy.
“John was referred to me when he was five years old and while I was working with him I became aware that he couldn’t return to his family and that he would need long-term foster care,” Erica said.
“We had already reared our family and our son had flown the nest and we both wanted to give this little boy a happy home. The Western Trust were so helpful. We met John’s social worker who began the process, arranged training and support and we soon became John’s long-term carers. John moved in on February 14, 2014, a day I will never forget.”
Erica said there have been challenges as John has a learning disability and autism.
“He was unable to speak, he still drank from a bottle and didn’t eat solid food. John is a very different boy now; we taught him how to communicate, to eat food, to take medicine and to tell us if he needs anything.
“One day last week, we were all sitting around the table and Aidan and I started to chat, then John started to giggle and held out his arm, which means he wants to join in the conversation too. So he started to talk about his toys, people he knows like my mother, who had come to visit. He really has come on in leaps and bounds.”
The Regional Adoption and Fostering Service is currently seeking to recruit foster carers to meet the growing demand of children and young people living in care.
There are currently more than 3,000 children and young people in foster care in the North.
Una Carragher, Principal Social Worker, Regional Adoption and Fostering Service said: “There are many myths about who can and cannot foster. We welcome enquiries regardless of race, religion, language, culture, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation.
“We are looking for people who can open up their hearts and homes to provide care for children and young people. Foster carers must be willing to offer a safe and secure home where children and young people feel valued, respected and cared for.”
For more information contact the Regional Adoption and Fostering Service on 0800 0720 137 or visit www.adoptionandfostering.hscni.net.