Colin and Sharon have been fostering with Barnardo’s for a remarkable 26 years. The couple, who live in Belfast, have fostered more than 20 children, providing short term, long term and emergency care, as well as fostering siblings and children with severe disabilities.
After Colin and Sharon’s friend recommended fostering to them, the couple attended a local Barnardo’s information evening, which proved very helpful for them. The event gave Colin and Sharon the opportunity to listen to other carers’ experiences and put any worries to rest.
Throughout their 26 years of fostering, the couple has cared for a number of children ranging from young people with challenging behaviours to teenagers and those with life-limiting disabilities. Colin tells us that as a foster carer “…you have to look past what you’re seeing on the exterior and find the young child. We’ve had children who have had multiple carers before us and have lost their identity along the way. It’s important for us to give these young people the security they need.” He admits that it is not always easy “but you simply cannot put a price on supporting a child and the difference you get to see in them.”
The couple felt great pride and a sense of achievement when their first foster child went on to live with their birth family again; “We keep in contact with some of these children and their families too.”
Another special memory Colin shares with us is from a time when the couple cared for a young female who had severe disabilities and was unable to communicate. Upon meeting her for the first time, the couple were told that she was physically unable to express any emotions. After months of working with her, the couple experienced her first smile! Colin tells us it was “the most special moment and we truly felt like we made a difference in her life. It was such a huge step, both for us but more for her. It felt like she had got her identity back.”
Colin describes the level of support from Barnardo’s as ‘invaluable’, saying “Barnardo’s is absolutely fantastic - anything you need, it’s done.”
Colin mentions a time when one of their foster children required surgery; “our social worker left the office after her day of work and came to support us at the hospital. You don’t get support like that anywhere else.”
The couple tell us “…you understand life so much when you foster. We’ve had friends say ‘I couldn’t do it, because I don’t want to get attached to the child’, that is the exact thing you need to be able to do - you need to form an attachment with the child. But as a first step, you should go and listen to people’s stories at information events.”
We are always looking for people like Colin and Sharon who can make a difference to a child's life.