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Fostering is integral to the support of children and families

2020-07-02

By Martin Quinn, Programme Manager, Children’s Services – Social Care and Children, Health and Social Care Board

The impact of Covid 19 on the population of NI continues to be immense but it has been particularly challenging for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Lockdown has been tough for many families with children. Schools have been closed or had restricted access for a limited number of pupils. Contact with extended family and friends has been restricted and many families and children have had to adjust to being indoors during the lockdown.

This has heaped the pressure on families and children in particular, trying to deal with physical or mental health issues, complex needs, disability and domestic abuse.

The Health and Social Care sector is acutely aware of our duty to protect and safeguard children and support families in need.

Our responsibilities have not changed during the pandemic, but we have had to adapt how we interact with children and families. Our aim, as always, is to support families care for their children. Where this is not possible and children need to come into care, we strive to provide the best possible alternative care and family support.

The number of children looked after in Northern Ireland has continued to rise in recent years and unfortunately, there has been a spike in recent months.

About 80 per cent of children in care are looked after by foster carers.

Foster carers provide children with care, support and stability within a family setting. Foster carers are an integral part of the support provided to families and together with the wider Health and Social Care system help children to develop their self-confidence, discover their talents, aspire for the future and reach their potential.

The contribution foster carers make to children and their families is immense and perhaps never more evident than during lockdown.

In acknowledgement of this, the HSCB made a successful bid to the Department of Health for additional funding to help foster carers manage the extra costs incurred from children being home on a 24/7 basis.

This funding amounted to a 20% enhancement to the food and household element of the Fostering Allowance that is paid to foster carers in respect of each child placed in their care.

While this is short term funding and subject to review, it is an acknowledgement of the value placed on our foster carers.

It also supplements the initial £100 paid to each foster carer at the start of lockdown by the Health and Social Care Trusts to enable foster carers to buy games, craft materials etc, to help provide activities for children and reduce boredom.

Taking a longer term view, the HSC Adoption  and Fostering team continue to develop the Regional Recruitment and Retention strategy in an effort to increase the pool of foster carers available to support children. A range of new and exciting initiatives to raise awareness and increase enquiries is in the pipeline.

In addition, the HSCB and Trusts continue to progress the procurement of fostering placements from the Independent Sector and Not-for-Profit providers to increase our capacity to place children with foster carers who have the skills to meet their needs.

If you are interested in becoming a foster/ kinship foster carer please contact HSC adoption & fostering care  at www.adoptionandfostercare.hscni.net or Tel. (08000720137) .

Further information on Fostering can be found here: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/becoming-foster-kinship-foster-carer

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