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.