The shortage of foster carers in Northern Ireland is reaching crisis point, according to a leading children’s charity.
Action for Children Northern Ireland has revealed that 170 carers are urgently needed in the region to meet the immediate need for placement.
Some children are having to be moved up to 70 miles from their home because there are no carers in their own areas, the charity said.
Avery Bowser, children’s services manager at Action for Children Northern Ireland, said: “We have children who desperately need a secure and loving home in Northern Ireland. We simply don’t have enough carers.
“Because of the shortage of foster carers across Northern Ireland this often results in children being placed a long way from home.
“Action for Children is appealing for really special people to come forward who have resilience, patience and flexibility to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable children.”
Mr Bowser explained that children in need of foster care that can’t be placed nearer to their home have difficulty maintaining links with their family and community.
“This affects the chances of the children returning home and has a negative impact on the long-term outcome for the child,” he said.
Action for Children Northern Ireland has been working closely with Health and Social Care Trusts to help them meet the urgent need for placements in their localities.
“The need is widespread across Northern Ireland,” Mr Bowser added.
“For instance in Belfast we need another 32 foster families while in Derry another nine are needed.
“In the Northern Trust area where we are particularly keen to attract carers - we need another 44 from Carrickfergus to Coleraine to Cookstown and all points in between. In the Southern Trust, another priority area for us, there is a need for another 34 carers this year.”
Maureen and Gregory, a married couple from Londonderry, decided last year to foster with Action for Children Northern Ireland – and said it has given them an incredible sense of purpose.
Maureen explained: “We’d raised three children of our own but we felt we still had something to offer. Gregory and I wanted to do something to reach out to a child who wasn’t as lucky as our children had been.
“Of course there was a lot of soul searching before we did it but as soon as we got in touch with Action for Children and worries or fears we had disappeared.
“They had an amazing support team in place and they helped us through each small step of the process without any pressure to actually foster at the end of it.
“But we knew from working with them very early on that it was something we could do and that would enrich our lives, with the support of the team at Action for Children.
“I can honestly say that it’s been an incredible experience and being able to help a young person is the greatest feeling in the world. It feels like we have a real purpose now and I can honestly recommend it to anyone who has it in them to help others.”
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer or would like to find out more, please contact Action for Children’s fostering team on 02890 460500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org