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Actor reveals how becoming a foster carer has changed his life

24th December 2023

Daniel talks about his ‘role of a lifetime’

A well-known Northern Ireland actor says he has taken on the role he was born for and it’s proving to be the most fulfilling one of his life.

Earlier this year Daniel May became an approved HSC NI foster carer and is now splitting his time between providing short breaks care for children/young people and treading the boards.

The Lurgan man is currently starring in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Courtyard Theatre in Newtownabbey but says any standing ovations this Christmas won’t come close to the feeling of becoming a foster carer.

And when Panto season is over Daniel intends to pick up where he left off by opening his home to more vulnerable children/young people – his only regret being he didn’t become a foster carer earlier in his life!

He said: “As a gay single man, I didn’t really think foster care would be something I would be considered for. But I was very wrong indeed.

“Initially I wanted to adopt and I began the process of being approved to become an adoptive parent in January 2020. I guess I left it a little later in life, but I always had this dream of finding a husband and starting a family together.

“I realised that sometimes life doesn’t work out as planned so I decided to press on at becoming approved to adopt. Then Covid struck and everything ground to a halt. I also moved back home to Lurgan and nothing happened for a year or so.”

Daniel, who has starred in shows all over Northern Ireland and reached the last 25 of the BBC’s and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Search for Joseph, then changed his focus and decided to become a foster carer.

“I still want to adopt and I will continue to work towards this but my mum was a foster carer and it is something that has always been close to my heart.

“I have been able to see first-hand the impact a loving home can have on a vulnerable child/young person and it is a really special thing.

“There is a real need for foster carers at the minute and I knew I could provide a good, loving home for a child or young person who needs it.”

“Before I became involved in foster care I didn’t really think there would be a big need in Northern Ireland. But it is shocking to learn just how many children and young people here are living in care.

“I’ve just turned 40 and I really regret not doing this sooner in life. My first foster child was a three year old girl who came to my home for nine days. It was an absolute whirlwind and we both had so much fun.

“I can remember feeling so nervous before she arrived, but once she was here all the nerves disappeared and we both had so much fun.

“When she left, my home seemed so quiet and I knew I wanted to help more children and young people.

“Some people think being a foster carer is beyond them and even people who have thought about becoming approved don’t go through with it because they think they might not be up to the task.

“My advice would be just to go for it. For me, the most important thing a foster carer can do is give their time to a child/young person who really need someone in their corner.

“Home cooked meals, clean, warm beds and consistent care goes such a long way, and I know a lot of us can provide that.

“The process to becoming an approved foster carer can take longer than expected but being able to provide a home for a child/young person that needs it, is a very special thing.

“I found the home study element of the process really rewarding. It looks at different aspects of your life and includes things like examining how you were parented and how you would parent yourself.

“I also wanted to tell my story as I know there may be people in the LGBTQ+ community who want to foster and adopt but maybe think they can’t.

“I was worried that my lifestyle would go against me when it came to fostering, as doing a run of 40 pantomime shows doesn’t leave a lot of time for other things in my life.

“But there are so many different forms of foster care and I have been able to work with HSC NI Foster Care to find what works for me and the children/young people coming into my home.

“Once January comes I will be opening my home to another child or young person and I am genuinely excited by the prospect.

“My advice is to reach out to HSC NI Foster Care to find out more information. Taking that first step is important and you will get the answers you need to help you make informed decisions.

“For me, while it’s a special time to be on stage in pantomime, I’m really looking forward to the final curtain when I can devote my time to another child or young person.”

Melanie Coffey, Senior Manager for Fostering & Adoption in the Southern area, emphasised the need right across Northern Ireland for more foster carers to come forward, although she appreciates it is a big decision for people.

She said: “Like Daniel, our foster carers are ordinary people who are minded to consider how they can make a positive difference in the lives of children and young people. Fostering is such a worthwhile thing to do and requires people who are thoughtful and kind.

“One thing we regularly hear is that people’s family circumstances make them think they aren’t eligible to become foster carers. But with different types of fostering available, ranging across various time spans and age groups it is highly likely you will find something which suits.”

We recognise and understand the need to work with foster carers as they balance work life, family life and their commitment to fostering. We have a rich mix of foster carers including couples, single foster carers, parent and adult children who foster together, foster carers from ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community.

We have a growing number of LGBTQ+ foster carers and would welcome more people to come forward. We can support conversations with your family and help you figure out the right fit for your circumstances.

Our foster carers receive a wide range of training, 24/7 support, ongoing development opportunities and financial allowances, as well as paid membership of The Fostering Network and access to family activities and support groups.

Melanie added: “If now is perhaps not the right time, I would ask that you please share information about fostering with others and stay connected with us until the time is right.”

If you are interested in hearing more about becoming a foster carer, call HSC NI Foster Care on 0800 0720 137 or complete our online enquiry form.