10 Questions – Fostering Advisor
This month we sit down to chat with our Fostering Advisor Barry who has been working with FFI for over 6 years. He tells us what his job entails and what is needed to become a foster carer with FFI.
- Can you explain your job in a nutshell?
I would be the first point of contact for FFI for anyone who is interested in becoming a carer or just finding out more about Fostering in general. People will often have done some research beforehand. The initial contact with me is going through any questions or queries they may have. This can vary from one off questions to more detailed pieces depending on the people or person. I would help people to start the process by going through the criteria check and if suitable following up with a home visit before any of the paperwork element of the process formally starts.
- What are the essential criteria that someone must have to become a carer?
A spare room is essential for any foster child. This needs to be without hugely disrupting their own children’s current sleeping arrangements. Any potential carer needs to be at least 25 years of age, there is no upper age limit once you’re fit and healthy. The main foster carer would need to have a full driving licence and access to a vehicle. This may not be the case for carers living in the Dublin area. If a potential carer has their own children, their youngest needs to be at least 3 years of age. However, this age may be higher in certain parts of the country due to localised ruling. You don’t need to have your own children to be a foster carers. I think a big thing is that people have to want to do it, there has to be that passion and desire to make a difference.
- What would you say are the most common misconceptions are about foster carers?
Most people doubt their own ability because of hearsay. Often things like a person’s age, relationship status or sexual orientation, housing situation, employment and lack of parenting experience can often lead people to think they wouldn’t be suitable. This can cause people to doubt themselves but all it takes is that first phone call to FFI to reassure them that these misconceptions aren’t fact.
- In some cases it won’t be the right time for potential carers. Can you explain some of the reasons for this?
If an applicant has had recent major health concerns, major life events such as bereavements, a recent move to a new community or they are a family with much younger children then perhaps it would be good to get as much information as possible now but to take a period of time to allow things to settle and then revisit it in the future. Fostering is a huge commitment for any family so things need to be right for them before you can welcome someone new into your home.
- What is the most common motivation for people who want to foster?
People have their own reasons and come from all different backgrounds. A frequent query is when they hear that there are over 6000 children in care and why nobody is helping them. This can encourage people to step forward. The motivation comes from the heart, to make a difference and a positive change in the life of a child or young person. They may also know carers in the local community, in their family, through work or simply just want to give back and help others. We’re always happy to hear from anyone who wants to make a difference.
- Part of becoming a foster carer with FFI is the Foundations for Fostering training course. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
It’s a three day training course that takes place over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the location can vary. It provides carers with an oversight of what is involved in being a carer with FFI. What we expect from our carers and what supports we provide to allow you to be the best possible carer to offer better outcomes to children. We cover everyday scenarios on how to manage certain situations and there are some group exercises which cover the past experiences of the child and how it may have effected them. This gives carers a better understanding of the child and how best to help them move forward. We have an experienced carer and birth child on hand for part of the training to give a realistic view of fostering and the impact it has on family life.
- Recently, as part of Fostering Awareness Week, FFI hosted 20 events nationwide. How did you find it speaking to so many people about fostering across five days?
It was refreshing. There were so many people nationwide who were passionate about fostering and improving the lives of children. A lot of people travelled to speak to us, many concerned about their own suitability to help but once again these myths were quickly cleared up and some are now in assessment to become carers with FFI. Our own carers were fantastic across this week. We had almost 60 carers out and about across the country helping at events and sharing their own experiences. They showed great enthusiasm and we really couldn’t have done it without them.
- Are there any other promotional events scheduled across the coming months?
In May we are running some events in Meath. The dates and venue will be confirmed next week. In June we are hoping to do a campaign around Pride events in Dublin. We are an LGBT inclusive agency and would really like to increase our already diverse pool of foster carers.
Across the summer months we will be busy with our family activity days nationwide. We have also just booked our information stand at The National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, Co. Offaly for September 19th – 21st.
- We’re currently recruiting for Specialist Foster Carers. Can you tell us the differences between these and General Foster Carers?
With over 6000 children in care, each child is coming from different backgrounds and will require different supports. Some of these children are currently or are likely to be placed in residential care. This environment often doesn’t give children with complex needs the support and security that being part of family unit can. Specialist carers will often have experience or qualifications in childcare, healthcare, education and special needs. The support for Specialist Carers is enhanced and this can be discussed at the enquiry stage.
- What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a Foster Carer?
Get some information first on our website (www.ffi.ie) or our Facebook page. I think for a lot of people making their first phone call is the most important step. This gives them the information needed to know whether they can move forward and if not what the reasons are at that time. It can be life changing but we will be with you every stage of the process. There are challenges involved but the good days will always outweigh the bad. Although there are 6000 children in care no one person can help everyone but everyone can help one.
I’m in this role over 6 years and have completed thousands of enquiries and have done hundreds of visits and applications. I look from hearing from you and hopefully meeting you in your home. I would say to put the kettle on, but I don’t drink tea.
If you are interested in fostering or would just like some further information, call us 01-4171944.