THERE is an urgent need for foster carers and foster homes in Fermanagh.
Foster families are urgently required to provide safe, stable and nurturing homes for vulnerable children and young people.
Fostering can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding as Trory couple Denyse and Robbie Walker know very well.
Denyse and Robbie have been fostering for the past nine years and are more than happy to tell their fostering story in the hope that other Fermanagh families will consider fostering themselves.
Denyse said they started out doing respite fostering which was ‘quite difficult’.
“With respite the children are only with you for a short time and you don’t get to keep in touch with them – and there can be a lot of comings and goings” explained Denise.
After going through all the necessary assessments and training Denyse and Robbie were approved for long-term fostering and over the past five or six years they have fostered two teenagers – at various times with a small overlap between them.
“We are also currently providing respite care for a little girl who comes to us once a month for the weekend” continues Denyse who said while this is usually at the weekend the phone can ring at anytime with an emergency placement.
One of the most rewarding things for Denyse and Robbie is when the kids keep in touch with them.
Of the Trory couple’s two long-term foster children one boy is now out of care and living independently and the other is away working but still returns to his ‘home’ in Trory and to Denyse and Robbie and the Walker family.
Denyse and Robbie have three children of their own, who are now grown up – son Glenn, and daughters Melissa and Nikki who are both now living away from home.
“They were all living at home when we first decided to start fostering,” recalls Denyse.
Asked how they initially got involved in fostering Denyse explained she works for Homestart in Enniskillen and through her work she comes into contact with families experiencing difficulties.
“We thought that we could provide a home for children/young people in need and could use our experience in parenting to give other young children the chance of a home, and to experience family life.
“Our youngest was about 13 years of age at the time and we decided we wouldn’t like to foster anyone older than our children at that time. To start with we went along to an information evening and then we had an assessment where we were matched up with a social worker.”
The social worker then met with Denyse and Robbie’s children to talk about fostering to make sure that they understood what it meant, and that they would be OK sharing their home with other children when the need arose.
“The kids liked the idea of it but none of us were exactly sure how it would go” said Denyse who explained to their children some other kids don’t have a stable family background. It really can be quite challenging” admitted Robbie saying it wasn’t too bad when there is only one but it can be different if there are two or three.
“The need at the moment is greater than the number of foster parents out there. We are just doing what we can, when we can.
“Just being able to give them a bit of normal family life is why we foster.” said Denyse.
“It is lovely to be able to help these children make sense of their lives.”