One of our own gives an update on how fostering works and how to start your fostering journey

Kerry Hession – one of our own here at Orchard Fostering – recently sat down with Marion McGowan from Athlone Community Radio to talk about an event we hosted in Athlone. Kerry spoke about the current foster care situation in Ireland, as well as delving into how Orchard Fostering works, and why we do what we do.

You can hear the full interview here:

We’ve gathered some of Kerry’s thoughts below, and strongly recommend you give them a read. They encapsulate the how and the why of Orchard Fostering, in a way only one of our own social care workers possibly could.

If you’re interested in hearing more from Kerry and her fellow social care workers, please reach out to us. You can begin your application online right now or give us a call.

What is the current foster care situation like in Ireland?

At the moment, there are a considerable number of children in foster care. According to Kerry, “there are over six thousand children in care in Ireland – over five thousand of these are in foster care.” While this may seem like a relatively manageable figure (Ireland tracks at a similar percentage of foster child

ren as most other countries, like the UK and USA) there is “a shortage of foster families” in Ireland, with roughly four and a half thousand families currently registered.

This shortage is something Orchard Fostering are keen to combat, as we strive to provide brighter futures for the six thousand children currently in care, and the six thousand that will come after them. Last year, we saw “well over a hundred children placed” with Orchard Fostering – and we will continue to support many more.

How does it work?

“Once a child is taken into care, that’s where we come in,” Kerry says. “When someone first applies to foster with us, they go through the whole assessment process. Then, they go through preparation training, as do their children – if they have children.” Our training process is designed to help foster families become acclimatised to the world of fostering – an experience that is different for everyone.

There are many reasons for a child to come into foster care. According to Kerry, “it could be due to different types of abuse or neglect. It could be that the birth family just need a bit of support. It could be due to bereavement in the family. We’re actually seeing kids coming in from other countries on their own – unaccompanied minors.” As such, there is huge diversity in the foster care experience, and our services reflect that.

We’re equipped to handle any situation. “Every single family that we have has an allocated social worker” to help them on their fostering journey, giving expert advice and guidance on all aspects of foster care. The social care worker’s role is slightly different to that of a social worker, Kerry says: “We work directly with the young people in a therapeutic manner. We offer them support through visits with their family, we help out with attending appointments – more direct work with the child or the foster family.”

In addition to a social care worker, we provide a range of helpful services, all designed to cover off the various facets of foster care. “We do training around behaviours, we have play therapists, we have colleagues specialising in grief and loss. We tailor training to what’s needed for the family or the young person.”

What do I need to do to start my fostering journey?

The first step on your fostering journey is a simple one – reach out to us, and just ask! You can be single, cohabiting, married. You can be a homeowner or a tenant. You can be from any ethnic, cultural, or religious background. Once you’ve contacted us, we get the process in motion – it can take in the region of six to eight months to complete our assessment process, and it involves taking a detailed look at you and your life.

There are very few limitations on who can foster – if you’re the type of person who wants to do it, odds are you’re the type of person we want to help achieve their goal. The most important thing is that you want to help and care for your foster child. As Kerry puts it: “If you can provide that safe space and love for the child – that’s the main requirement.”