Paul and Riccardo met just over twenty-two years ago when Paul went to work in Namibia, and unbelievably it was Valentine’s Day! Paul worked in community development developing services for people affected by HIV with a focus on vulnerable children and orphans. Riccardo is a graphic designer. They have been very fortunate to have lived and worked in Southern Africa, India, London and now have settled in Northern Ireland. Their life is completed by a variety of dogs who too are their travel companions. Here is their fostering story.
“From the very early stages of our relationship we always talked about having children but given how we continually moved and the pressures of our jobs we felt it would be unfair on a child or children not to give them all our focus and stability. When we moved to Northern Ireland, we knew this was going to be our home and where we would put down some firm roots. Given our ages we felt fostering would be the best avenue to go down rather than adoption.
All of our friends and family have always known about our wish to have children and always told us what great parents we would make. And from time to time, they gave us the responsibility of looking after their children. When we told them that we had made the decision to foster, they were all very supportive. A number of our friends were our referees and only from reading, what they wrote did we find out how they have considered us to care for their children should something happen to them.
We did some research and spoke to a few people who were or had fostered. From searching on line we found FCA and everything about what we saw and read just seemed right, so we made the call.
We passed panel at the end of September 2018 and on the 9th October 2018, we had our first young person come to live with us. Our amazing little boy who came to us as a short-term placement now has a full care order so he can now stay until he is 18.
Right from the very start, it has felt like we've had this big warm blanket around us. There is always someone to answer all our questions and queries and you’re always made to feel you’re part of one big family. We’ve never felt judged or what we had to say as unimportant and the support is there 24/7. The online training we’ve done and will continue to do is very informative and supports what we do in our daily lives. We also have our individual supervising social worker who supports us on day-to-day stuff and we also have support from the team parenting group which is a team of people from FCA and other agencies. We feel totally supported.
Fostering has its challenges you have to invest your time into everything you do, the training, the meetings, the travelling, the unexpected and most importantly your young person. Also be prepared to experience feelings and emotions from your young person and yourself that you didn’t know they/you had.
If we were to sum up our experience of fostering as a whole it’s a bit like going to the funfair. There are things that you really enjoy, things which are really scary but you know people are there to keep you safe and at the end of the day you’ve had a great time and you’ll continue to keep going back for more.
There have been many fostering moments which are hard to describe but the first unannounced hug and being told ‘I love you’ really took our breath away.
Fostering is a massive step to take, but the experience of the initial induction and the in depth assessment you go through will allow you to look at yourself and to know whether you can do it. Helping guide a young life is very special and we feel very privileged that our young person is allowing us to help them along their path.
Our advice to new foster parents is stick with it and believe in yourself! In the first few weeks, we went from feeling elated, distraught, overwhelmed and not sure we had done the right thing. However, when we started to talk to other people and seek support we realised we were doing OK. Sixteen months on and we’re still here and so glad we did it”.
“It’s not all about making them happy and giving them nice things, it’s about being a comforting presence and being kind. Sometimes they just need to know you are there.”
April 2 2022
Single foster parent, Marlene, based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, has worked with children with autism, shares her incredible fostering journey so far.
“The big thing was making that decision and going with it. We’ve never regretted it, and never looked back!”
March 24 2022
Steve and Eileen, winners of the Families First Foster Carer award in 2017 and foster parents for over 15 years, sit down to talk to us about their journey so far.
“It is amazing to see what wonderful children they have grown to become.”
March 15 2022
Christie Newbold, a Derbyshire local, has been fostering for the past 3 years and sat down to share her experience and advice for future foster parents.
Foster parent, Kerry, shares her incredible fostering journey with a talented child in her care who was destined for higher education.
March 1 2022
As part of our #ChangeTheStory campaign, Kerry shares the incredible success of a young person in her care, and how he went on to achieve his ambition.
"We find fostering so rewarding, we do not consider it as a job, it’s a way of life.”
February 28 2022
Foster parents, Delia and Franz Cox, who are based in the North of England, have been fostering vulnerable children for seven years and are currently looking after two children.