A County Armagh foster carer has shared her story of how she, her husband and their two children opened their house to young people who needed a loving home and are now long-term foster carers to two siblings aged nine and 14 .
This week the Southern Trust has issued an urgent call for more foster carers to come forward and the local couple are telling their story in the hope it will encourage others to get involved.
To protect the identities of the children in their care, we are calling the foster carers Brian and Heather.
“If we don’t love them, then who is going to do it.
“This was the question posed to Brian and I by our eight year old daughter at the dinner table two years ago.
“She had been watching a children’s programme featuring a group of children who lived in a children’s home and wanted to know why we couldn’t foster children in a similar situation. Our son who was eleven pointed out that we had a spare bedroom and so we were fully equipped.
“Brian and I had been married for thirteen years and after having my first child I was told that swollen and worn discs in my back would prevent me from having further children.
“We did not want our son to be a ‘lone ranger,’ so we considered adoption.
“Unfortunately I was also born with clubbed feet and although I could walk, the pain in one foot became unbearable so we had to put the adoption process on hold.
“Some time later my back was examined again and the consultant advised that one more pregnancy would not cause further damage.
“Life was busy with two small children and my disability plus I taught part time and Brian is self-employed as a farmer; we had enough in our family life.
“But who is going to love them, if we don’t?” On the inside cover of my teaching pay slip the question asking employees to consider fostering was written in bold print and my mind was cast back to the adoption preparation course.
“Brian and I talked lamented, questioned, worked out the practicalities and the affects on our children over two years.
“I taught children in foster care and asked myself who else could respond to our love and care if we fostered them.
“By this time Brian was approaching his 50th birthday so we needed to decide or both of us felt we wouldn’t have the energy for younger children and we felt drawn to that age group.
“Then the conversation at the dinner table took place and with the whole family committed to the venture we approached Social Services.
“Since then we have had constant support and help from all the Trust employees and have been very impressed about how they care for our family as much as the children we foster.
“They have equipped us through courses and written material to know how to deal with new emotions and situations.
“The foster children have been amazing! They have responded positively to the physical care, time and laughter as we navigate life, all the time building their sense of safety, value and worth.
“Some things take patience and a different approach but with the correct support and advice we are all learning together.
“Our children have gained valuable life skills such as sharing, patience, forgiveness and compassion.
“Brian and I have a terrific circle of professionals and fellow foster carers that we can call friends.
“If you don’t love them, who is going to?” Children need loving homes, time and practical care so join the team and be one of the people who just does it.”
An information evening on Thursday, May 11, from 7pm until 9pm, in the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown. You will have the opportunity to meet experienced social workers and talk to foster carers. To register your interest phone (0280 3833 7181 or email email@example.com