Together or Apart?16th April 2021
HSC NI Foster Care do their best to try and keep brothers and sisters together, where possible, when they come into foster care. We know how important sibling relationships can be and how remaining as a family group can go a long way in helping children and young people adjust and settle in their foster homes.
Noeline and her husband Alistair from Belfast have been caring for three siblings for nearly 8 years.
The siblings, then aged 10, 8 and 7, were the first children to be placed with them after they were approved as foster carers and have been with them ever since.
The couple thought on and off about fostering for some time but decided to wait until their youngest child was heading off to university before taking on the role.
“Being a childminder meant I had always been around children throughout my career and really enjoyed their company and when my sister-in-law began to foster herself, I thought maybe I could do something to help children in need too,” she says.
“We spoke to our own 3 children about the possibility and they really encouraged us to put ourselves forward. We then went to an information evening and decided to go for it. We didn’t necessarily intend to look after children long term from the outset, but we were sure that we wanted to help keep a sibling group together. It’s just how it worked out for us, and we wouldn’t change it all these years on.
Through their younger years they were a good support to one another. When they first came, two of them shared a bedroom. Of course they fought at times, like any brothers and sisters but ultimately they have been there for each other through thick and thin,” she adds.
The siblings are now 18, 16 and 15. “At the moment, it’s great – they’re at an age where they’re much more independent and like to do their own thing. It was hard for them, like all teens, during lockdown and I think they’re glad to be back at school and with their friends. Before lockdown we would go to the pool together, and head away on holidays. We do try to make sure we do things together like have the odd movie at the weekend though it can be tricky to find something we all like to watch these days!”
Noeline continues, “We’ve always told them to follow their own paths in life and do what they want to do. I think having the experience of raising our own children really helped us second time round.”
Noeline’s husband has been beside her every step of the way during their fostering journey. “Alistair and I are in it together 100%. He’s self-employed but makes sure he attends all the important events in their lives like school functions, careers meetings and provides a great taxi service for them! We also have a great support network around us and the siblings have good links with their own grandparents and birth parent, which is important to them.
I’ve also attended quite a bit of training. The children have had different needs at different stages so we picked courses that we thought would help us help them like first aid, attachment, and adolescent courses in more recent years.
Fostering is a brilliant thing to do, I really enjoy them. Our house never cools!” she laughs.
We’re looking for more people who are willing to open their homes and their hearts to family groups. Get in touch with us to find out how you can help.
Call 0800 0720 137