Children’s charity, Barnardo’s Northern Ireland, has announced ‘Foster to Adopt,’ a new service that allows children in need of a safe and loving home to be placed with prospective adopters on a fostering basis. The vital service will help to achieve the best match for both a child and their prospective adopter and will reduce the number of moves that vulnerable children experience.
All prospective adopters are carefully assessed and prepared by the charity’s experienced and friendly local team. By placing children with their prospective adopters on an initial fostering basis, Barnardo’s Northern Ireland provides an opportunity for the child and foster carer to develop a relationship while the legal process of agreeing the plan of adoption is undertaken.
At present, 50 per cent of children placed by Barnardo’s Northern Ireland are either in long-term fostering placements or have been successfully adopted. In the last 6 years, 12 per cent of the charity’s foster carers have adopted children that they were fostering.
Foster to Adopt Service
The Foster to Adopt service will focus on placing children with complex needs, older children and siblings.
The Charity reports that children across Northern Ireland enter the care system for a multitude of reasons, and that there is often a combination of factors in any one case, for example, drug and alcohol dependency, coupled with poor family support.
Other reasons may be mental health concerns, domestic violence, a relationship breakdown or parents who have been through the care system themselves, who have experienced disrupted attachments, and may be unable to sustain relationships or parent their child safely.
Statistics released by the Department of Health* showed that, as of March 2021, a record 3,530 children and young people were in care in Northern Ireland. Of these, 21 per cent had been looked after for less than a year, and 31 per cent had been looked after for five years or longer.
Heather Watson, Barnardo’s Foster Carer and Adopter commented, “If I had to give somebody advice, or go back in time, I would have started this journey sooner. We’ve been doing this for ten years. You see the difference you can make in these wee children’s lives.”
Barnardo’s Northern Ireland is the only Independent Fostering Agency in Northern Ireland that is also registered as a Voluntary Adoption Agency. This allows the charity to support children and carers throughout the care process, right through from fostering to adoption.
Director of Barnardo’s Northern Ireland, Michele Janes, said, “We are incredibly proud to introduce our new Foster to Adopt service. It will provide children who are in desperate need of a loving, permanent home with the opportunity to be adopted by the family that they have built a relationship with. In doing so, it will also eliminate the potential trauma of another move.
”40 per cent of children who require placement for adoption in Northern Ireland have a range of complex needs, including medical conditions, disabilities and developmental delay, are over the age of 4 years or need to be placed alongside a brother or sister. All of these factors can mean that these children often wait the longest for an adoptive family.”
As the longest-standing Independent Fostering Agency in the country, Barnardo’s Northern Ireland has been established for over 40 years. The charity currently works with approximately 18,000 children, young people and families across more than 40 services.
Helen Browne, Assistant Head of Fostering and Adoption at Barnardo’s Northern Ireland, added, “We work closely with prospective adopters, taking their skills and experience into consideration and providing ongoing support.
“Upon getting in touch with us, they will have an opportunity to speak to a Barnardo’s staff member by phone, attend a local information meeting, and then meet with a social worker during a visit to their home.
“We explain in great detail what the Foster to Adopt process involves, to help them to make the right decision for their family.”
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*Statistics from ‘Children’s Social Care Statistics for Northern Ireland 2020/21’
About Barnardo’s Northern Ireland
Barnardo’s Northern Ireland is the largest children’s charity in Northern Ireland. It works with approximately 18,000 children, young people and families annually across more than 40 different services and programmes.
Barnardo’s works to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year helps thousands of families to build a better future. Visit www.barnardos.org.uk to find out how you can get involved.