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HSC NI Foster Care in Southern area launches ‘Voices of Fostering’ podcast

5th September 2022

Two women have spoken of the highlights and challenges of opening their homes and their hearts to vulnerable young people as foster carers.

Ciara Heaney and Bronagh Galloghly were speaking on the first episode of a new podcast, ‘Voices of Fostering’ which explores how fostering can change the lives of foster carers and young people.

The podcast seeks to find out what attracts people to fostering, the benefits it brings as well as the impact it has on families, while also highlighting some of the challenges which can come with looking after young people.

Hosted by Melanie Coffey, Senior Manager for Fostering & Adoption in the Southern area, and Fionnuala McAtamney, Consultant Lead Psychologist, each episode deals with a different aspect of fostering.

There are currently over 3,500 children currently being looked after outside of their birth families in Northern Ireland and of these, almost 82% are in foster care. With an increasing number of young people coming into care, The Fostering Network estimates that 265 more fostering families are needed across Northern Ireland to ensure every child and young person gets the care they need from foster carers within their own community.

Melanie said: “We desperately need more foster carers come forward, but we know and appreciate that it can be a big decision.

“The best advocates for fostering are the people who are doing it every day, therefore this new podcast can be a really valuable tool for us to recruit more foster carers.

“It lets listeners hear what motivates people to become foster carers, the process they go through to become registered and the ongoing training and support they receive. We also hear from family members as the impact on them is something prospective foster carers must consider.

“We also don’t want to shy away from some of the challenges which exist for carers, but we feel by talking about them openly, then people can be fully informed to make decisions.

“Another 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, it is highly likely you will find something which suits.”

Our HSC NI Foster Care Community is made up of a rich mix of people including couples, single foster carers, parent and adult children who foster together, and foster carers from ethnic minorities and the LGBT+ community.

In the first episode foster carers, Ciara Heaney and Bronagh Galloghly, reveal how they became involved in fostering.

Bronagh said: “My own children are now adults with children of their own. I loved being a full-time mum and it left a huge void in my life when I couldn’t do that anymore. I knew something had to give as I was starting to buy clothes for the dog!

“My husband and I just thought we have a lovely home which we could making much more use of so we made the phone call to our local fostering team and we’ve never looked back. I love every minute of it and I would encourage other people to do the same.”

Fostering hadn’t been on Ciara Heaney’s radar until her daughter revealed to her just how much HSC NI Foster Care is in need of more recruits.

Ciara said: “We have five birth children, two of which still live at home, six grandchildren and a cousin also lives with us, so it was a busy house. We now look after two other young people and have come to be very passionate about fostering.

“My oldest daughter is a social worker but I had never really heard a lot about fostering. My daughter came home one evening and said, “Mum, there’s a great need for foster carers, would you not give it a shot?”

“My husband and I discussed it and made the phone call. The first step was the hardest part, but since then we have been guided all the way through. I would recommend fostering to anyone.”

Click here to listen to episode one of ‘Voices of Fostering’.

Click here to read Sunday Life article ‘The Joy of fostering’ – where Bronagh and Ciara talk about their experiences of fostering.

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