A Waterside woman with significant experience in the area of fostering has urged others in the city to consider it too.
Sheila Stalker, from Copperthorpe in Drumahoe, has said that she would “absolutely” encourage others to get involved in fostering.
Speaking as the Kindercare Fostering Northern Ireland organisation said that children in the foster care system need “a springboard to the future – not just a safety net,” the local carer emphasised the difference fostering can make to a child or young person.
Having worked in supported living accommodation and observed a large gap in the provision of care for young people, Sheila said she felt she had something to offer to those in need: “I had seen many young people sent to B&B accommodation and various independent living areas without, to my mind, adequate independent living skills.
“I felt I could offer support of this nature to a young person. I am a respite carer and feel very fortunate in the experiences I have shared with young people.
“Things generally do not get too tough, and while it can be challenging at times the enjoyment far outweighs the problems.”
A major national campaign is underway to highlight the role of foster carers and adoptive parents.
Sheila said fostering was something other members of her family, including her daughter, had embraced.
“My favourite memory of fostering is of having a young person spend their birthday with me and my daughter. This was quite a humbling experience. We made it special and felt privileged to share such an important day. I have also had the experience of providing respite care over an extensive period of time to a child with disabilities. This has allowed me to be part of their journey and observe their progression in life.
“I would absolutely recommend fostering to others. It is a very rewarding experience.”
Niall Kerr, service manager at Kindercare Fostering Northern Ireland, said that the local team had no doubt about the impact of their work: “We witness first-hand the benefits of family-based placement. We see children and young people thrive within dedicated, loving families, to the extent that one young person who had missed most of an academic year, as a result of serious personal and family difficulties, was subsequently appointed Head Girl of her school, and is now attending University. We have a social work team who passionately believe in the high level of support, guidance and training we deliver to carers to ensure positive outcomes for children and young people. In combination with our immensely committed foster carers, we can enable children to reach their full potential by providing a springboard to the future – not just a safety net.”
If you want to learn more about fostering in Derry, please call the Kindercare team on 028 9094 1690.