10 Questions – Children’s Officer

This month we caught up with our Children’s Officer Aideen who talked her through her role having joined FFI 12 months ago. We also chat about everything we have coming up across the summer for young people in FFI including, trips to Scotland and Canada in July and BBQ’s and family fun days across the rest of the summer.

1. You’ve been working with FFI a little over a year now. Can you tell us about your role and what you’ve been involved in across the last 12 months?

My role was newly created within FFI so the first year was really about laying the groundwork for developing children’s services. I also spent a lot of time meeting as many of our carers and children and young people as possible across Ireland.

The role itself is very varied. The main tasks are overseeing childcare support to our carers, children and young people, facilitating participation of children and young people in FFI events across the year and identifying ways to support carers to help prepare young people to leave care. This year we have begun to roll out training around preparation for leaving care as a support to our carers.

2. You mentioned training for carers who have young people preparing to move to aftercare, can you elaborate on this?

Many young people face challenges on leaving care so it is important that they are assisted to develop the skills they will need as they transition to adulthood and independent living. The training we offer aims to provide our carers with the tools and information that they will need to support young people to prepare for leaving care. The training looks at how our carers can promote positive outcomes and resilience in young people leaving care as well as how they can help and support young people to prepare to leave care focusing on the areas of relationships, self-esteem and practical and financial skills and knowledge.

3. What ongoing supports do FFI offer to the children and young people within our service?

The level of support is quite high. The education supports are very impressive, you really notice that in the build up to exam season but the support is provided across the school year. There is a lot of ongoing support for carers via their Link Social Workers. Whether it’s for training, carer group supervision, or just a general check in over the phone. We provide child care support to carers who need it in order for them to attend training and carer groups. We also have experienced staff who provide support to children and young people directly when a specific need is identified. The out of hours support service is an incredible back up and gives carers the reassurance that they’re never alone. Carers also have access to therapeutic supports.

4. Can you tell us about Children’s Participation within FFI?

We in FFI believe in encouraging and facilitating children’s participation and ensuring that they have opportunities to have their voices heard in FFI whether that is through arranging events for young people to get involved in; ensuring that young people receive information about their rights and being in foster care in a child friendly manner; or by creating opportunities for children and young people to tell us their views on their foster placement.

5. In July, FFI is partaking in a cultural exchange with Canada. This will involve children, carers and staff spending almost two weeks in Canada and taking in their lifestyle, sights, food and landscape. This sounds like an incredible experience, what is going to be involved?

We leave on July 11th to St. Johns in Newfoundland, (interesting fact, it’s only a 3.5 hour flight) to take part in a cultural exchange with our sister agency Key Assets Canada. We will meet several young people and their carers in St. Johns. We’re spending a few days there where we will be doing several activities including Whale Watching and soccer baseball! After that we will head off to the Grand Falls to spend several days in some traditional Canadian Log Cabins. We’re looking forward to some outdoor activities and lots of BBQ’s and picnics!

6. The following month the Canadian group of children, carers and staff will come to Ireland to experience everything that our country has to offer. What have you and the FFI staff team got planned for their time here in Ireland?

The Canadian group arrive on August 10th. We want to give them a really varied experience of Ireland. We start off in Dublin and will go to several of our major attractions. We then get a train to Galway to spend several nights in the West. We’ve got a lot planned including surfing, a trip to the Fleadh Ceoil, a visit to the Aliwee caves, Aran Islands and an adventure centre. We finish up with a big adventure day in Athlone just before the group head back home. It’s all shaping up well thanks to the hard work of the staff from FFI!

7. FFI will take a team of boys and girls to compete at the Key Assets Soccer Tournament in Scotland at the end of July. What do trips like this offer to young people?

For some of the young people it can be their first experience of going abroad or being on a plane. These trips are all about making friends, enjoying a trip away with other young people and of course they getting to represent Ireland and pull on the green jersey. It’s a really fun trip and provides young people with lots of lasting memories. Last year the young people were unbelievable and won the tournament!! It was a great feeling to get to bring the trophy back to Ireland and every player got their own medal.

8. FFI hosts annual events including our summer BBQ in Clara Lara which have been running for the last 10 years. Carers really look forward to this event, can you tell us more about it.

As you said, it’s been going now for the last 10 years. It’s a great opportunity for carers and their families to chat and catch up with people they may not have seen for a few months.

The children and young people love it and spend hours running from corner to corner of the park going on each of the rides only returning to check if the BBQ is ready or to grab a drink! It’s a great way for them to make and renew friendships.

We’ll also be hosting another day in August which will include Kayaking and a water park and we hope the sun shines on both those days!

9. These events wouldn’t be possible about our carers support either through help with planning or encouraging young people to attend. How would you describe the FFI carers you’ve met with over the last year?

They have all been so welcoming and I have felt a great warmth when I have visited their homes. I’ve especially been moved by their commitment to better the lives of children and young people in their care. The best word to describe them as a whole would be inspiring.

10. What would you say to anyone thinking about becoming a foster carer?

Don’t be afraid about making the first move, you’re never alone and there’s always plenty of help along the way and importantly you really can make difference.

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