Story By: Ulster Gazette
HAVE a go! We promise you it will be the most rewarding experience of your life.
Those are the words of Armagh couple Dominic and Bronagh Gormey as the Southern Trust continues its drive to recruit more Foster Carers across the borough.
Dominic and Bronagh have been Foster Carers with the Trust for the past eight years. And during that time they have looked after a total of 17 young people who were in the care system.
At present the local couple are caring for three boys on a long term basis. They have a 19 year-old who has been with the family for eight years and a 13 year old who has been living with them for six years and a 14 year old who has been with them for the past two years.
“Fostering was something we had considered in the past but it wasn’t until we moved to a bigger house and our own three children had got up a bit that we started to really think about,” said Dominic.
“I can remember watching an NSPCC advert on television about a young person in need of foster care and wanting to reach into the TV to hug the child,” said Bronagh.
“We then took the plunge and after our Skills to Foster course and Home Study we were approved by the Trust.
“Just two weeks later we had our first placement and to be honest we haven’t look back since.”
Prospective Foster Carers are encouraged to register their interest with the Trust. From there a social worker will call with you to speak about the process.
The Trust run courses known as Skills to Foster when social workers take new carers through a six week course (one night per week) outlining everything the job entails.
“This can often be a warts-and-all approach but I would say to anyone who has doubts at this stage not to be put off,” said Dominic.
“The Trust will never place you in a situation you aren’t comfortable with and there is always someone at the end of the phone to offer guidance when needed.”
After the Skills to Foster course a social worker conducts what is known as a Home Study with the prospective Foster Carers.
This can mean your assigned social worker calling once a week for a couple of hours and going through different aspects of your life and your childhood. It can cover practical aspects of your life such as your finances and career as well as your approaches to parenting. This process usually lasts for a couple of months.
Home Studies sometimes get a bad press with social workers being accused of being intrusive but the overwhelming majority of Foster Carers point to them as a positive and affirming thing as it can give you the opportunity to look at certain areas of your life you rarely get the chance to.
Once the Home Study is completed successful candidates will go before a panel of experts but usually if you get to this stage the panel will be a rubber-stamping exercise as opposed to a grilling.
“We haven’t regretted a thing about Fostering and I would do it all again in the morning,” said Bronagh.
“I would absolutely encourage anyone who is thinking of it to take the plunge, you won’t regret it.”
People can sometimes be put off Fostering simply because they don’t feel they are cut out for the job.
“These children need family values and love and we can all give that,” said Dominic.
“In the beginning we were scared of the unknown but we felt we wanted to go ahead with fostering – we had our own three children reared and still felt we had the energy to commit to this.
“We feel we have been given the correct training by the Trust and are confident in what we do now. We also know that help is at the end of the phone whether that be through the Trust or the Fostering Network.
“We have a saying that today’s children are tomorrow’s adults so it is important we give our children a wee chance when we can.
“And in the eight years we have been doing this I have to say that the children who have come through our door have helped us every bit as much as we have helped them. They have made our lives better and more worthwhile.
“I would encourage anyone who is interested in Fostering to get in touch with the Trust or the Fostering Network – I promise you won’t regret it.”