Northern Ireland news

Charity calls for more foster carers

Ann and Brian Beattie

BARNARDO'S is urging more families to consider fostering to cope with a massive rise in the number of children in care.

Rising child poverty, a lack of early intervention and support for families before they reach crisis point, and a heightened awareness of abuse and neglect were among the complex reasons for the increase.

Barnardo's Fostering Week 2019, which begins today, aims to encourage people to help vulnerable children have a bright future.

In the past decade, the charity's foster carers have taken care of thousands of children, however, it is concerned there are not enough suitable families.

Ann and Brian Beattie, from Northern Ireland became carers 14 years ago, and have seen amazing progress in some of the children they cared for.

Ms Beattie said one toddler struggled with speech and did not know how to play. The couple spent hours playing and working on communication skills. By the time the child returned to their family they had improved dramatically.

"They couldn't speak when they first came to us, they would just point to things, but over the weeks and months I would just play and play and their speech just came on amazingly," she said.

In Northern Ireland on March 31 2008, the total number of children in care was 2,433. By March 31 2018, this increased to 3,109.

Director of Barnardo's Northern Ireland Lynda Wilson said: "As the number of children in care continues to rise, it is more important than ever that more people consider becoming foster carers to ensure that the right loving families are available in the right location and with the right training when children need it."

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