Couple share experience of supporting unaccompanied / separated young person17th December 2021
Mike and Lo chose specifically to foster young people who arrive in Northern Ireland from various countries around the world without a parent or responsible adult.
Here they share their fostering experience:
We had always been open to sharing our family and felt the time was right after the birth of our third child. We see it as an honour to share what we have with someone who needs it.
We pursued fostering unaccompanied / separated young people as we have lived abroad so had a familiarity with various cultural practices. We currently have a young person with us from the middle east who joined us in October this year. Our own children are all under 8 years old so having a young person in the house who had a greater degree of independence helps the dynamic in our family.
Our children have whole heartedly embraced another person in our home. We included the children in the conversation and preparation from quite early on and continue to create spaces for them to express any concerns or difficulties they are feeling.
The children are fascinated by what they can learn from our young person – their language, culture and even food. Our young person loves being part of a busy family and plays board games, enjoys learning to cook, helps the kids when painting and just generally joining in with our family activities. They are already part of our family.
The assessment process is thorough, but it is for everyone’s safety; particularly the young person. It did require being very transparent and honest and speaking about quite personal things with a professional, however we were happy to do this to facilitate the process.
There is lots of training available, both specific to the role and for general life and parenting skills. We also have ready access to professionals to answer questions or give support and advice, and there are networks of other foster carers to support our journey from a place of experience. Home for Good charity have also proven to be a great resource for professional and peer support.
The rewards of fostering
The privilege of loving and supporting a young person in need of a home is life giving. There are challenges – for us, mainly logistics getting used to safeguarding issues and helping the young person get into education etc, but once you have a face and a name for a young person, you find the energy to do what is needed to help them flourish.
Not only have we been able to support our young person, but they have been an absolute gift to us – an experience of an older sibling to our three children and a trusted support for entertaining the children whilst dinner is being cooked! We have not changed our family values or rhythms, but merely invited the young person to join them so that involves lots of walking, board games, playing, working and chilling out!
Advice to anyone thinking about fostering
There are some definite challenges and sacrifices that fostering asks of a family, but with support it has been a life giving experience for us all.
There are different types of foster care so do get in touch with the fostering team to talk about your current circumstances and what you could offer. It can feel daunting, but just take a step at a time; deal with each stage as needed and you’ll find that the process will demystify as you go through and meet others on the journey.