Childrens Participation in Fostering First.
Our young people’s forum Chatter Matters met on a monthly basis either on-line or in person throughout 2022. At the end of the year, seven young people aged between 16 and 18 were engaging with the group. The young people identified and choose to focus on the theme of Culture and Diversity within FFI as a project for 2022. This culminated in the production of an advice guide for foster carers called ‘Carers for Culture’ which was designed to promote cultural awareness among foster carers and to support foster carers who may be caring for a young person from a different cultural background to them. As part of the theme of Culture and Diversity the young people also suggested holding an Intercultural Day to celebrate all of the different cultures that are part of FFI. The young people were involved in the planning, organisation and facilitation of this day which took place in August.
Birth Children Support:
In 2022 we continued to develop links with, and provide support to, the birth children of FFI foster carers. This was done through the sharing of the birth children information booklet with children who foster as part of the foster carer induction. Our birth children group for 8-11 year olds continued to grow with the group meeting on-line eight times during the year. Based on feedback from young people, 2022 also saw the establishment of a birth children group for young people aged 12-14 with this group meeting online seven times across the year. These groups are a great opportunity for birth children to meet other young people with shared experiences and to show them how much we in FFI value the role that birth children play in the fostering task.
During the summer, we held two events for our foster families and we were delighted to welcome our families to these days out. The first event took place in Clara Lara and both the children and adults alike enjoyed the day. The second event took place in Ballyhass Lakes in Co Cork and was a great success with the children taking part in a High Ropes activity and then having a great time on the Aquapark. These days are a fantastic opportunity for foster carers, children and staff members in FFI to meet each other, make connections and just have fun!
In August, FFI hosted our first in-person Independence Retreat for young people aged 16+ since 2019! The retreat took place in Carlingford Adventure Centre over the course of four days and three nights, with seven young people attending. The retreat consisted of a mixture of workshops on independent living skills and outdoor activities with the purpose of the retreat being to support the young people with the skills they would need on leaving care and move into adulthood. Topics covered in the retreat included budgeting, emotional well-being, diet and nutrition and relationships. The retreat received positive feedback from the young people who attended and new friendships were formed between the young people.
Our Participation Ambassador continued to attend Foundations for Fostering in 2022 to share his experiences of fostering with applicants as well as promoting the importance of young people’s participation. Our Participation Ambassador co-facilitated Chatter Matters throughout the year and took on a leadership role at our Independence Retreat. Our Participation Ambassador took part in a webinar with MJF as part of their Transforming Children’s Care Global Collaborative Platform speaking around his experience of children’s participation within FFI. In October, the Department of Children, Equality, Integration, Disability and Youth hosted an event as part of Ireland’s Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called ‘Hear Our Voices: The Rights and Determination of the Best interests of the Child in Parental Separation and in Care Proceedings”. Our Participation Ambassador took part in a ‘fireside chat’ with other young people with care experience as part of the conference which was moderated by the keynote speaker Lemn Sissay OBE FRSL.