Almost 10 years ago, my family made the decision to start fostering. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s simply caring and raising a child that isn’t your own, biologically.
That’s the formal definition but it’s a lot more than just that. You’re giving a child or baby or teenager a chance at a better life, access to opportunities they could have only ever dreamed of and hope.
I admire my parents immensely and anyone else who decides to become foster parents. Fostering is hard. There is no point denying it but the good always outweighs the bad. You have to open your family, your home and your heart to a complete stranger.
It’s up to you to make sure they feel safe, secure and loved. They may come from turbulent and dangerous places and it’s your task to change their perception on everything they see and feel about the world.
Without getting political or offensive, I can’t understand why this logic isn’t implemented in regards to the current refugee crisis. Now I know many will argue that we don’t know refugees, we can’t afford to maintain them, Irish citizens take priority, refugees bring differing religions, ethnicities, origins etc.
But in most cases the exact same is true for fostered children.
When you take a child into care you don’t know much about them. I know I surely didn’t. You knew their name, age, where they came from and maybe why they came to live with you. That’s it. And yet we still open our arms to them. We give them a home, a family and most importantly love and support.
Refugees may not be Irish in the eyes of the State but many fostered children aren’t either. They may have absolutely no tie to Ireland except that they lived in the country for some amount of time before they were taken into care of the State.
The fostered children who live with my family are my siblings, my sisters and my brother. There is no other name I’d give them. I argue, disagree, laugh, cry and smile with them like I would with my other siblings.
Similarly Refugees aren’t just Refugees. They’re more than that one term.
They’re people; mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, colleagues, neighbours.
They’re real people and they deserve a real chance at life.