More foster carers needed, says HSE
Resource type: News
Irish Examiner |
by Conor Kane
HUNDREDS of children could be given the chance to lead a normal family life if more people made themselves available as foster carers, according to the Health Service Executive. While 92% of the 5,300 children presently in the state’s care are with foster families, the target is 95% and that depends on an increase in the amount of carers.However, Ireland has one of the highest rates in the world of foster care provision for children from troubled backgrounds.
“It’s about improving a good picture, but it’s a constant challenge to get people involved,” said HSE national specialist in child and family services, Aidan Waterstone, yesterday.
About 4,500 children are being cared for by 3,300 foster parents, but hundreds more could benefit if more carers became involved. The HSE and the Irish Foster Care Association yesterday launched Focus on Fostering Week in an attempt to raise awareness of fostering. The ‘Could you give a child a chance’ campaign is designed to help HSE local health offices in recruiting foster carers.
“By international standards, to have over 92% of children in foster care is extremely high,” said Mr Waterstone. “Partly I think it’s because there’s an historic affinity for Irish people with fostering.”
While some troubled children need the multi-faceted services offered at residential centres, the HSE’s aim is to get that figure up by more than 500 children to 95%. Foster carers are particularly needed in large urban areas and for young people aged between eight and 18.
According to the HSE, fostering is for children who, for a variety of reasons, cannot live with their own family. This can be for a short time, such as a week or two, or a longer-term requirement. The HSE has statutory responsibility for child welfare and protection and its fostering teams throughout the country recruit, assess, train and support foster carers.
As part of this week’s campaign, a range of information sessions and events are taking place nationwide, while booklets and leaflets about fostering are available at Health Service Executive offices, the HSE and Irish Foster Care Association websites, public libraries and community centres. Association director Deirdre McTeigue said that foster parents provide a stable family home for children to help the child reach their full potential.
“IFCA works in partnership with the HSE to promote foster care as the best alternative for children in care,” she said. The association offers independent support and advocacy for foster parents and also campaigns for improvements in foster care, said Ms McTeigue. HSE principal social worker Mary Cummins said that there are about 3,300 foster carers providing care to 4,500 children.
“Fostering is the backbone of the child care service and foster carers deserve the support of the whole community for what they do. We continue to need more carers to join this group in order to meet the ongoing needs of children in care.”