Steven and Gareth are newly approved Foster Carers with FFI. They have taken the time to tell us about their fostering journey so far and also their experience of the assessment process with Fostering First Ireland.
When we began looking for information online about fostering, FFI had a lot of online presence. The website was very informative and emphasised the support and training they give to the foster careers. The YouTube channel had recent uploads of foster careers talking about their experiences and that was great for us as we didn’t know anyone that had fostered. Listening to the foster careers stories were really inspiring and got us really thinking that we could be foster carers too.
We worried that being a same sex couple that we may not be accepted as foster carers, even though FFI welcomes same sex couples to enquire. A lot of fear was there from our own insecurities. We were thinking “how will we be received by the social worker coming to assess us?” what will they think about our home? what will they think of us?. We heard things online about the assessment being intrusive and that “they want to know everything” and I did worry that ‘what if there was something about us and our lives that would be a barrier to fostering’. In the end though, we didn’t feel the assessment was intrusive at all, everything that was asked was relevant to understanding us as people and how our life experiences has shaped us and how those experiences could support us as foster carers in the future. The assessment was actually a lovely experience for us and it relieved us from those initial worries and fears.
We would joke with each other, saying our assessment meetings were like therapy sessions because we always felt good afterwards. It was like an opportunity to reflect over our lives, remembering our childhood and talking about the dynamics between family members. Sometimes there were tears but mostly laughter. We looked forward to each of the sessions. The assessing social worker was so understanding, non-judgemental and really listened to us.
The training weekend really shone a light on the child’s experience of coming into the care of the state. It helped us to understand all of the emotions a child might be experiencing. It highlighted all the people that may be involved, parents, FFI link worker, Tulsa social worker, foster carers, other family members. I just remember the activity we did during the training really giving us an insight into the spider web of people involved particularly at the beginning of a child coming into foster care. In addition, we were able to meet foster carers during the training and it was lovely to hear about the birth daughters experience with the fostered child and how they became like siblings to her, she said she could not imagine her life without them. Hearing that statement was just amazing.
We felt fully included, comfortable and welcome throughout the assessment process and the training. There is nothing specific to foster careers of the LGBTQ+ community in the training, and this is probably due to there not being many same sex couples currently fostering. We did wonder was there specific challenges to same sex foster careers i.e. would parents not want their child to be cared for by a same sex couple? What where the experiences of same sex foster careers and the parents of the child during visitations or just in general?
We both think FFI are doing a fantastic job at conveying an inclusive sense about their organisation. Perhaps in time, a booklet designed to address some LGBTQ+ related worries or concerns or just to share experiences from foster careers from the LGBTQ+ community would be great to see.
For anyone who is unsure about whether to make the first step, our advice would be, get in touch, make the call. FFI are extremely friendly and open. Sit down and think of as many questions as you can and go through them with Barry who meets with you when you first make contact. He answers everything and It will most likely relieve your concerns and worries, which will let you know if fostering is right for you or at least help you decide if you want to continue with the assessment. We have no regrets and our experience has been great so far.
If you would like some more information about becoming a Foster Carer with us we would love to hear from you. Click here to complete a small enquiry form and we will get in touch with an information pack ASAP. Alternatively you can call our office on 01-4171944 or visit our Facebook page for more ways to get in touch.