This week saw the launch of Fostering Fortnight, the Irish Foster Care Association’s annual campaign to raise awareness and understanding of foster care in Ireland.
Taking place from March 2 to 15, Fostering Fortnight highlights the valuable contributions made in fostering families daily.
It’s a chance for those involved in fostering, and the communities that support them, to tell their stories.
The Irish Foster Care Association recently conducted their 2020 Members Survey, to discover the benefits of foster care.
They discovered that 53% of respondents said they continue to foster because they want to make a difference to the lives of children in care.
Some 33% want to offer a child or young person in need the opportunity to be part of their family, with a huge 72% recommending fostering to others.
More than 32% of respondents said that safety and security were two of the main benefits care to children and young people in care, while 20% said connection with a responsible adult with their best interests at heart, with 19% saying that consistency in their day-to-day lives were huge benefits.
When asked about the changes they see in their foster child after time in foster care, 33% said they see better communication, 25% said the child was more settled in school, and 23% said they saw improved social skills.
There were 5,971 children in care at the end of November 2019, with 92% (5,469) in foster care, 3,924 (66%) in general foster care, and 1,545 (26%) of children in relative foster care.
Some 92% of children in general foster care had an allocated social worker, and 88% of children in relative foster care had an allocated social worker.
Foster care is a huge part of the alternative care system in Ireland, with Fostering Fortnight providing an opportunity to celebrate foster care in Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, Bernard Gloster, chief executive of Tusla, said: “The Irish Foster Care Association’s Fostering Fortnight in March is a great platform through which we can celebrate the remarkable contribution that foster carers make to the lives of so many children.
“There are many misconceptions around foster care; for example, that foster carers are certain types of people.
“But the truth is that it only takes one person to change a child’s life, and that each child is different, with their own needs.
“You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect foster carer for a child – indeed, what is perfect for one child is not perfect for another.
“This is why foster carers from all walks of life are needed, with different skills and interests.”
Catherine Bond, chief executive, Irish Foster Care Association, said: “Fostering Fortnight has become such an important two weeks in the calendar for foster care in Ireland.
“It creates an awareness around the valuable contributions being made every day by families, social workers and the wider fostering community.”
The Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) has launched a new advocacy service (funded by Tusla and Pobal) in response to some of the complex and often difficult issues that foster carers experience in their fostering role.
IFCA’s advocates support foster carers with communication, correspondence and meetings with Tusla and others where issues can be teased out, foster carers’ voices can be heard, and solutions identified.
Their advocacy team works with foster carers to ensure they feel acknowledged, understood and supported, with four advocates working across the country, supporting our foster carers and working closely with Tusla and other stakeholders.
Speaking about the new service, Catherine Bond said: “We are delighted to launch our new advocacy service.
“This service is available to our members who need support in their fostering role when things get tough.
“We now have four advocates on the road supporting foster carers across Ireland, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and a much-needed service for foster carers.”
Keep up to date on all the activities taking place across Ireland during Fostering Fortnight, on Facebook and Twitter by searching for ‘Irish Foster Care Association’.