Social Services Northern Ireland, Foster Child Fermanagh, Aileen McAloon, Katherine McElroy, Adopt Push for Foster Care Fermanagh

Adoption is easy; simply select a child from some Third World, poverty-stricken country, then bring them home to raise as part of your own family.

This recent media perception of some high profile adoption cases concerning celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Madonna, has been refuted by an Omagh-based social worker who believes "nothing could be further from the truth".

Katherine McElroy, the team manager of the family placement team within the Sperrin Lakeland Trust (SLT) stated, "Adoption in the celebrity world has become the new accessory that totally undermines the real story."

As Adoption Awareness Week kicks off - running from today (Thursday) to November 12 - this local registered adoption agency is looking to highlight the message that there are children locally that require a family for life.

Katherine says, "While inter-country adoption has risen in popularity within Northern Ireland, there are increasing numbers of young children, brothers and sisters from our own communities who need the opportunity to share family life. There are a whole range of families that could meet their needs and we need those people to come forward. It is about finding families for life for children that need them."

Nevertheless, if you do choose to pursue the overseas adoption route, Katherine says her family placement team can provide advice and assistance on the risks involved in this process but she emphasised again that "there are children in this community that equally need those families".

There are many misconceptions concerning the adoption process, with many believing that only well-off and married applicants will be considered to adopt and that it is really difficult to qualify as an adoptive parent. Katherine however is hoping to quash these notions through this information week that is offering the public the opportunity to learn more about all aspects of the adoption process.

"There are families out there for every child and should they live in a council estate or their own house, should they have a low income or high income, should they be two parents or one, it is not about that. It is about your parenting abilities and your skills to be able to meet the needs of that child."

Since 1987, adopted adults have been able to find information about their birth history. Since then, social workers have helped adults who were adopted look for records and possibly trace birth family members. Over the years, the number of adopted adults who choose this path has increased and just this year SLT appointed Clare Scallon as a dedicated social worker to undertake this post adoption work.

Alongside adults who were adopted Clare is also engaging with adults who were in foster or residential care as children and who may have lost contact with their birth families.

Clare notes that this search can be frustrating, lonely and it can sometimes end in disappointment.

"Many adopted adults who wish to trace their birth families feel their is no service out their for them, it is all for younger children, but this new service by the SLT I feel is a positive step in terms of funding for adoption.

"We have a duty of care to adopted adults and want to assist them as much as possible, making that initial contact on their behalf, providing a mediator service so that the interaction runs smoothly."

Urging anyone who finds themselves in this position to contact them, Clare says, "We would encourage anyone who is looking to trace their birth families to use us in that respect because you would find more successful outcomes, as we offer that support network."

She also maintains that it is a fine balance and they don't simply give out personal information without considerably assessment.

Clare says, "We also still feel we have a duty of care to the birth family, and certainly we wouldn't simply be giving out names and addresses and saying away you go start knocking on doors, as this situation can be an extremely stressful time for both parties."

Both social workers stress upon how their number one aim is for children to remain with their birth families, offering a counselling service for anyone who is considering relinquishing their child for adoption, providing them with as much support and information as possible.

Katherine concludes by commenting how "adoptive parenting is a rewarding but demanding job. There are children in our local communities who need families like you to offer them a second chance."

If you would like to find out more about adoption and what it may mean for you do not hesitate to contact the Family Placement Team in the Community Services Department, Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital, Omagh. Tel: 028 82835114. There will be dedicated adoption social workers available to speak to you directly from 2pm - 5pm on Thursday November 9, and 2pm-4.30pm on Friday November 10.

There will also be an information session where it is possible to meet face to face with adoption workers to discuss any queries you may have and find out more about the adoption process. This session is being held at the Tyrone County Hospital on November 28 between 10am and 12pm.

Giving a child a helping hand Publication Fermanagh Herald Date January 31, 2007


When the Fostering Network decided to look for 'a face of fostering' to promote their cause, they couldn't have found a better advertisement than Ederney couple, Roly and Jo McIntyre.

For the couple have been fostering children for 16 years and, from the moment you walk into their friendly, relaxed home it is easy to see why so many children have found their home from home at the McIntyre's door.

The Fostering Network host an annual campaign, 14 - 27 May, to highlight the need for more foster carers and, this year Roly and Jo will feature predominantly in the advertising campaign, with one photoshoot, in the VIP area of the Waterfront Hall, already under their belts.

Jo explained that the couple first began taking in foster children 16 years ago, when their oldest son was only two: "We have a love of children, and always wanted to share our house with children. Over the years, we've had between 16 to 20 children, of all ages. They come to us for anything, from one night emergency care, to a year-and-a-half."

What makes the McIntyre's home such a haven is the fact that from the moment a foster child walks through the door, they are treated as one of the family. That goes for everything from discipline, to falling in with the house routine, getting your homework done the minute you come in from school, to going on the family holiday.

"Of course they are included in our holidays," Jo explains, "They are included in the fun things as well as the day-to-day routine. You don't take on a child to send them away again for a fortnight just for our convenience."

Roly explained that fostering was made a lot easier, thanks to the efforts of their own four children: "They have never known anything else, but we owe them a lot. They have had to learn to share everything, their home, their family, their toys. But, more often than not, it is the children who break the ice when someone new comes to stay. They can speak to them on their own level and show them round the house. And as they got older, the bigger ones help out with all the younger ones. They've been brilliant."

Although fostering might seem like a selfless task, Roly and Jo were quick to point out, they get as much, if not more out of it than the children.

"It is extremely rewarding. When you get a child who is maybe very traumatised, their whole demeanour is affected. They are just lost," Roly explained. "But, to see that child come to life, to see their eyes light up when they have settled in is amazing. When you see a timid child leaving you a bright new person, you just hope that sticks with them when they leave us."

While many people believe watching a child leave your care, especially after a prolonged period of time may be difficult, Jo has an alternative way of viewing this stage in the process.

"When you take on a child there is a reason for doing it - to help them on to another stage in their life in a much improved state. If they are leaving, them they are starting over and that's a good thing. You have to remember you were only ever filling a gap in their life.

"All they ever want when they arrive is, 'mummy' especially the younger ones. I'm not their mummy, but all I can try and be is the next best thing at that time in their lives. All they need is to be shown some love and trust and then they respond to this."

Their house echoes with the sound of children's voices, and Jo laughs: "Yes, it's a very busy house, and I'd say 99.9 percent of the time a very happy house. I'd be lost if I didn't have the children, I'd die if there was no noise in the house, no going's on, it would be very dull."

And that's why, she added with determination , "We'll never stop, never, never, never."

Roly spoke about the 'excitement' that getting in a new child starts to build in the home the minute a call comes through from Social Services: "It's always exciting to get a new person. We have never refused to take a child. We have shared our house with everybody and will continue to do so."

Roly urged anyone in Fermanagh who 'has a spare room' to consider fostering: "Just lift the phone and call Social Services. Don't be afraid, you'll not be compelled to anything, but it's a start if you even find out the details."

He added that there was a great deal of support available for foster carers in Fermanagh, both through the Fostering Network, who run support groups in the area, and the Sperrin Lakeland Trust, with every carer assigned their own social worker.

"It's a real opportunity to give a child a helping hand when things aren't going too well for them. It is a challenge, but there is nothing more rewarding," Roly added. "You don't have to be special, we're just ordinary people, but if you can give a bit of time and support, why not have a go?"

Nicola Holden, the McIntyre's Link Worker, with Sperrin Lakeland Trust, explained that there was an extreme shortage of foster carers in the area, with a particular difficulty finding homes for older teenagers who need care.

"There are no restrictions, we have couples, and single people. All you need is motivation, some experience with children, warmth, and time to meet the child's demands."

There is a training and assessment process to go through before a child will be placed with a new carers, but anyone who is considering becoming a carer is urged to get in touch and find out if it is for them or not.

"All it takes is a phone call, there is no commitment", Nicola added.

Jo, meanwhile, says she remembers 'every one of them', the children who have stayed with the family. "We have made enquires about them all. And, one child comes back to visit. It's lovely to see how well they are doing, how they are growing and developing in life. Do they remember their time with us? Yes, I think they do, and I hope they remember it as a happy time."

If you think you could give a child a foster home, contact the Family Placement Team 6634 4000.

Copy of Fermanagh Herald News Archive.

Link to Fermanagh Herald Newspapers.

Thursday Interview - Finding a family for life Publication Ulster Herald Moday Date November 09, 2006


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