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Focus on Fostering Week - 'Could you give a child a chance?'

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Irish Foster Care Association and the Health Service Executive (HSE) are working in partnership to promote fostering. The aim of the campaign, entitled 'could you give a child a chance?' is to raise awareness of fostering and to assist HSE Local Health Offices in recruiting foster carers. Focus on Fostering Week will run from the 2nd - 7th November 2008

What is Foster Care?
Fostering is caring for someone else's child in one's own home - providing family life for a child who, for one reason or another, cannot live with his or her own parents, either on a short or a long term basis. Foster parents provide a stable family environment, nurturing the child to help him or her develop and succeed.

Fostering differs from adoption, in that an adoption order ends a child's legal relationship with their natural family, while foster parents work towards ultimately reuniting child and family.

Why would a child be taken into foster care?
The reasons for children or young adults being placed in foster care are much more complex and rarely for any single isolated reason. For example, bereavement, illness or family breakdown, child abuse or neglect, alcohol or drug dependence. These difficulties combined with such factors as unemployment, mental disability, lack of family support, poor housing or lack of housing, can be the cause of children or young people coming into care. In some cases a child or young person may be removed from their family for their own safety.

A child is taken into care in one of two ways; the parents may approach the relevant HSE office and Voluntary care for the child/ren may be the agreed solution to the difficulties.The other route into the care system is through the Courts. Where it appears to a health authority that a child/ren in it's area need care and protection, then that health authority may apply to the Courts for a Care Order. Entry of a child/young person into care is either planned or as an emergency.

Relative fostering:
When a child/young person comes into care in a planned manner, the Fostering Social Worker looks to the child/young persons extended family to see if the young person could be placed with relatives. Approximately 32% of children/young people in care today are in relative care, i.e. living with grandparents, aunts, uncles or other family members.

Criteria for Foster Parents:
Foster parents/carers come from all walks of life regardless of your maritial status, sexuality or residential status. Foster families come from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds which reflect the needs of the children/young people they care for.
The main criteria is that the foster family has the room, both physically and emotionally to accommodate a child/ren and can provide a stable family environment in which to raise the foster child/young person.

What is the Process One goes through to foster?
Prospective foster carers undergo rigorous interviews and home assessment by a social worker. If approved, they do an initial training course over six weeks, conducted by social workers and other foster carers.
Your final file will go to the Approvals Committee and if successful you will be registered as a foster carer.

If you want to become a foster parent you need to ensure you have read all the relevant information available from IFCA and the HSE then you contact your Local Health Office and make a formal application to foster. Following this application a social worker will be appointed to carry out an assessment of your suitability and competence as a foster carer, this involves home visits and interviews, receipt of a Garda clearance, references and medical report. If you have children of your own the social worker will speak with them re impact of fostering on their lives.

Support System:
. Financial Assistance - The HSE pays a maintenance allowance of €319-€346 per week for each child in foster care.
. Each child in care is entitled to have a social worker who visits them in their foster home and maintains a link with the child's birth family.
. Support is also available from public health nurses, psychologists and child care workers as appropriate.
. Every foster carer is entitled to have a social worker to support them.
Other professionals can be accessed if necessary, for example, speech and language therapists, counselling services.
. Additional support can be obtained from the IFCA

Stats:
Ireland has had a long history of foster care and there are over 5,000 children under the age of 18 in the care of the Health Service Executive (HSE) at present, over 90% of these children are in foster care.

There are no figures available for children in need of a foster family but the HSE is constantly in need of additional foster families. Having sufficient foster families allows social workers match children with the family most suitable to their needs.

Different Types of Fostering:
When a child is placed in foster care, the HSE assigns responsibility for the child to a social worker. Based on the child's needs and circumstances, the HSE makes a decision on the type of fostering that is most suitable for the child.

Day foster care
This involves specially trained foster parents/carers providing foster care for a child on a daily basis. Day foster care takes place in the home of the foster parent and the child returns to his or her own home each night. This type of care gives the child's own family an opportunity to deal with difficulties each day as they arise. The goal of day foster care is that the child can return home on a full-time basis.

Short-term foster care
This involves a child being cared for by a foster family for a short period (ranging from 1 week to some months). The aim is for the child to return to his or her family full-time at the end of the short-term period. Sometimes, however, the child may remain in foster care on a longer-term basis.

Long-term foster care
This involves a child being cared for by a foster family for a number of years and may continue until the child reaches adulthood.

Relative foster care
Relative foster care happens when another family member becomes foster parent of the child. For example, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, adult sister/brother, etc. In this situation, the relative of the child is assessed by the HSE in exactly the same way as all other foster parents.

What happens when a child turns 18?
When a child turns 18 years of age they are technically out of care of the HSE, however if they are in fulltime education the HSE in majority of cases will continue to maintain this child in their placement. It should be noted that foster carers who have reared a child from a young age do not see 18 yrs as a cut off point and these young people remain living there as part of the family. An aftercare programme is in place in many parts of the country but unfortunately it is not available everywhere; the HSE are presently working on a national aftercare programme.

IFCA:
The Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA) was formed in 1981 by a group of foster carers and social workers. The Association offers its members support and information and keeps them up to date with regard to changes in the law in relation to foster care.

The Irish Foster Care Association works in partnership with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to promote foster care as the best alternative for children who cannot live with their own families.

"We support all foster parents/carers and relative carers in Ireland who contact us for advice, support and guidance on all issues in relation to foster care".

The main objectives of IFCA are:
. To assist in the recruitment, education and training of persons involved in the care and treatment of children in foster care in Ireland.
. To create a greater public awareness of foster care in Ireland, thererby drawing more families into fostering.
. To provide support and educational services for those involved in foster care in Ireland.
. To encourage the highest standard of practice for those involved in foster care.
. To promote a caring environment for the children in foster care.
. To promote a sense of community concern and care for children in foster care.
. To promote research into subjects related to fostering and to educate and influence public opinion by all lawful means.
. To establish and maintain one or more centres or branches to be used for the main objects of the Association.
. To unite everyone concerned with children in care, foster families, natural families, social workers, religious, teachers, hospital staff and child care workers, with one common ideal, to work for the child in care.
. To be steadfast in its commitment to the ideal that every child has the right to a family life, be it with the natural family or a substitute / foster family.

- THOSE WHO DO VOLUNTEER NEED ALL THE SUPPORT THEY CAN GET!

The IFCA is there for support. The IFCA represents 55 per cent of foster careers and its philosophy is that children grow best in families, ideally with their natural parents or, if that's not possible, a substitute family.

CONTACT:

Health Service Executive
HSE Infoline on CallSave 1850 24 1850 - Lines open from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday
You can also find your Local Health Office on the HSE website - www.hse.ie

Irish Foster Care Association
www.ifca.ie
1st Floor
The Pharmacy
Mayfield Terrace
Ballinteer Road
Dublin 16
Tel: +353 1 296 1083 / Fax: +353 1 296 1078 / email info@ifca.ie

An information booklet and Leaflet about fostering is available at HSE Local Health Offices, the HSE & IFCA websites, public libraries and community centres.

Carlow /Kilkenny......................... 056 7784532
Cavan......................................... 049 4377305 / 306
Clare .......................................... 061 718400
Cork ........................................... 021 4923025
Donegal ..................................... 074 9123675
Dublin North West ...................... 01 8692700
Dublin North ............................... 01 8708000
Dublin North Central ................. 01 8556871
Dublin South City ....................... 01 6486650
Dublin South East ...................... 01 2680361
Dublin South West ..................... 01 4600615
Dublin West ............................... 01 6206387
Dun Laoghaire ............................01 6637300
Galway ....................................... 091 546354/366
Kerry .......................................... 066 7195623
Kildare / West Wickow................ 045 896120
Laois / Offaly .............................. 057 9370700
Limerick ...................................... 061 328336
Longford ..................................... 043 50783
Louth ...........................................042 9392220
Mayo ............................................096 21511
Meath .......................................... 046 9097800
Monaghan ....................................047 30426
Roscommon ..................................071-9662087
Sligo .............................................071 9141011
South Tipperary ............................052 77303 / 77302
North Tipperary ............................ 067 46661
Waterford .....................................051 842880
Westmeath .................................. 0906 491324
Wexford ........................................053 9123522
Wicklow .........................................01 2871482
Shared Rearing Traveller
Fostering Service.......................... 01 6206387

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