Tusla National Fostering Week
This week is Tusla's National Fostering Week. Tusla has an ongoing need for foster carers, especially in the greater Dublin area and in other large urban centres around Ireland.
There are many misconceptions around who is or isn’t, eligible to foster. Tusla currently work with foster carers who are in a same-sex relationship, are Travellers, are of African or Eastern European origin, are Muslim, have a disability, who don’t have a job currently, who rent, who are single, who are over 45, and with parents who both work.
But what is the journey of becoming a foster parent? Here is Lilly's story...
My name is Lilly and I'm a single foster Mammy to 2 gorgeous children (a boy and a girl aged 4 and 5- let's call them Hannah & Tom). I have been fostering for the past 3 years - prior to taking on Hannah and Tom, I did some weekend respite fostering for another little boy and his older sister.
So how did I get into fostering.....where do I start?? I always wanted children but it just never happened for me. I threw myself into my career, bought my own house, rescued 2 dogs however every day I would come home from work to my house and dogs and no matter how much I tried, I could not escape the longing in me for children,
Fostering is something that has always been at the back of my mind however whenever I thought about it I would discount it as I always saw myself falling head over heels for a child and then having to hand him/her back and then having my heart shattered but now I know that this is not always the case.
Let me bring you back to early 2015...I met one of my good friends for lunch and after a lot of chat the subject of fostering came up....again!! This time it was different, it's difficult to explain but this time there was a strong sense of purpose....this fostering idea was not going away and I noticed it was no longer relegated to the back of my mind but was more and more at the forefront of my mind. We talked and talked and when I got home I immediately looked at the TUSLA website to see was I eligible as I was single and to my delight, yes I was! I contacted TUSLA and within a few weeks, a Social Worker called to my house to meet me and have a chat.
Within another few weeks I started the assessment process - this took about 4 months and it was pretty intense but I got through it. When my assessment was completed I then had to wait for a date for the Committee meeting - this is where my case is presented to a Committee of c.8/9 people made up of Social Workers, School Teachers, School Principals etc - they assess my case and then meet with the reviewee to discuss questions that may arise after reviewing the individuals case. This was a 4-month wait but I finally had my Committee meeting in August 2015. I was so nervous when I was called into the room (some of the Committee leave the room so there were only 4/5 people there - not as daunting!!). This turned out to be a lovely experience and I was approved to Foster. Now all I had to do was wait for the placement call......
So....I've just been approved as a Foster Carer - what happens next?? I completed my training (this was every evening over the course of a week and then a full day on a Saturday). I met some lovely, like-minded people on that course, some of whom I'm good friends with to this day! My boss in work was aware of what was happening and she had agreed to me taking a Career Break for a year once I got the placement call. I intended to return to work on a part-time basis once the year off was over and this was discussed during my initial assessment.
I had decided that I specifically wanted to take a sibling pair, as young as possible and I wanted it to be long term fostering. (There are different types of fostering - respite, emergency, short term and long term). I came to this decision because I knew I wanted more than 1 child - if I took one child initially, and then a second child in time I would then be looking at 2 difference access plans with two different families which could be difficult to manage once I returned to work.
For me, I had a long wait to get the call - just over a year to be precise. During that year I did some weekend respite fostering and really enjoyed it. One of the couples who I met through my training course was approved by the Committee and received their call the very next day! It's different for everybody! The wait was hard and frustrating however looking back on it now, it was the best thing that could have happened as more and more pieces fell in to place during that time which ultimately helped me when I got the children. I just couldn't see that at the time and I'm not the most patient person in the world.....
So after a year and 1 month of waiting (not patiently!), I got the call...and I was immediately terrified and excited in equal measures!!
Hannah and Tom were on their way - Hannah was 2 at the time and Tom was 1 - this is it - I am now a Foster Mammy - OH LORD!!
It was a complete roller coaster!