FIND OUT MORE: www.adoptionandfostercare.hscni.net or 0800 0720 137
Foster Care Fortnight™ is the biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, delivered by leading charity, The Fostering Network.
Belfast Health and Social Care (HSC) Trust is delighted to support Foster Care Fortnight 2020. We hear from two families who show the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers and live out this year’s theme “This is Fostering” every day of the year.
Yvonne Worsell (above) has been a Health and Social Care (HSC) foster carer for approximately 20 years. A single carer, Yvonne has a vast amount of experience having cared for babies, children and teenagers on a respite, short term and longer-term basis.
Yvonne, who was named Fostering Network Foster Carer of the Year 2020, currently shares her North Belfast home with the three young people (15, 17 and 20) she fosters. Here she shares an insight into life during lock down for one big happy fostering family.
“I often tell the story of how I got into fostering. I was a single parent with a young 8 year old son who was mad for some company and an older son who had moved away from home. I literally saw an advert on the side of a bus about the need for more foster families in Belfast and knew I had to do something. I love children and spending time with them. The rest is history.
“For the past few years I have been fostering teenagers. Fostering teens is not easy. When children are younger, you as the adult are very much in control. You can encourage good behaviour and guide them day to day. It is different with teenagers and the approach towards discipline is very different. I have learned so much from the various ages, personalities and cultures of children that I have fostered and I have put that experience to good use. I also draw on my own experiences of raising my own children.
“I believe it is important to be involved in and part of a teenager’s ever changing world instead of trying to control their world in any way.
“From day one, everyone knows that I have basic ground rules, one of which is to respect the house and everyone in it. Communication is very open but I have firm boundaries.
“Sarah* celebrated a year living with our family in March. We have had our ups and downs and lockdown due to Covid 19 has definitely been the biggest challenge. Like a lot of 15 year olds, she normally spends a lot of time out and about with friends. Initially it was very difficult getting her to understand the need to stay in and to convince her that she couldn’t physically see her friends. I know that teenagers often don’t see risk for what it is. They feel invincible. I wanted to protect Sarah from the negative realities of the Covid 19 pandemic but I sat her down and we watched the news together. The reality of the need for social distancing and staying home sank in then.
“It can be difficult with everyone being at home, but we have set up a rota for cleaning up after mealtimes and sharing the chores. In many ways teenage life is all about eating so with lockdown they do miss the freedom of a trip to Nandos with friends or a run down to the Chinese takeaway. I accept that they might want to make something to eat very late at night! I also believe it is important to give them everyone their own space and I respect that space, so bedrooms are their own responsibility but they do have to keep things reasonably tidy.
“I refer to my HSC social worker Kevin as my ‘right hand man’. The way I see it, if I have a problem I talk it over with Kevin and ask him for support and advice. He is brilliant and when things are challenging he is always there and knows how to ease the situation. HSC social workers have always been available on the phone and during Covid has been no different.
“We are making the most of the lockdown situation although of course we look forward to the end. For now I think of a lovely new plaque I have hanging in my kitchen which says, ‘Begin each day with a grateful heart’ and that’s exactly what I am doing for now”.
LOCKDOWN AS A FOSTER PARENT
Sharon (45) and her partner Ciaran live in North Belfast and have been fostering with HSC Foster Care for the past year and are foster carers for 5 year old Daniel*. In the relatively early stages of her foster journey, here Sharon shares what life is like with a young child at home during lockdown.
"When I was younger I always had it in my head that I would look after other people. I met my partner Ciaran around 8 years ago and early on I told him that I would like to become a foster carer. I would have been anxious about doing this on my own but I did meet a lot of single people at the HSC fostering training courses so it is possible.
"Thankfully Ciaran is very easy going and laid back and just said, 'Yes, let's give it a go'.
"Every person who becomes a HSC foster carer has to go through an assessment process. The assessment was quite an in depth look at our life including our own childhoods, our relationship and our health.
"I didn't find the assessment process challenging. Ciaran and I are both open books really so there was nothing to hide. There was a health check and that was fine too. On the day we were approved by Health and Social Services we met with a panel of around eight people. I found that a little bit nerve wrecking. I was quite nervous about speaking in front of other people but in the end it was absolutely fine. Most of the questions concerned the safety of any child that would be in our care so those questions were easy to answer. On the day I felt it had gone well.
"At the moment I am working in retail and have been furloughed due to Covid 19 though I imagine I will have to adapt again to new circumstances in the next few weeks. When I began fostering last year, my employer was fantastic. If I needed to take time off because of my role as a foster carer, she was very supportive. I would say that support helped a lot as I was working full time when we first began fostering. I would also say that our social worker really worked hard with us to consider our jobs and routine and the circumstances of a child that would come into our care - it has been a really good 'match'.
"Before the current lockdown, Daniel had regular physical contact and time with his birth parents. If there was a school play for example, his mummy and daddy would be there as well as myself and Ciaran. He would see his birth parents a few times a week including tea at his mummy's house once a week. It's difficult now that can't happen but he has a virtual video call with his mummy and daddy twice a week now instead. That is difficult for a young child because it's so unlike seeing people face to face. But it's part of our role as foster carers to build a good relationship with Daniel's parents. Daniel knows when he's having the video call that if he's finding it tiring he can let everyone know and we will say bye bye a little earlier until the next time.
"With the Covid crisis, Daniel is now at home full time with me rather than at school. He is an active little boy with lots of energy. We're lucky that we have a garden for him to play in. He chats about his school friends and sometimes we see them walking by and wave through the window. Myself and Ciaran and Daniel take lots of walks together and he gets out on his bike too. Plenty of healthy eating, lots of water and a good night's sleep for all of us are the key to success at the moment.
"With fostering some days are hard but most of the time it is great. I always try to spread the word that fostering is a great thing to do and it is very, very worthwhile."
Foster Care Fortnight 2020 takes place from 11 to 24 May.
If you are interested in finding out more about fostering for HSC Adoption and Foster Care, visit www.adoptionandfostercare.hscni.net or call 0800 0720 137. Whilst our resources are affected by the Covid 19 crisis and it might take longer than usual for us to respond to your enquiry, all enquiries are valued and we will be in touch.
Copy supplied by Belfast Trust. Video interview with Yvonne Worsell by Thomas McMullan.