Belfast Telegraph

Fostered Daniel the proof that children in care can engineer their way to great future

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

He was more determined than most young people to get his university place.

For when Belfast student Daniel McGuigan was only nine, the fostered boy overhead the words "children in care will never succeed".

A need to prove those words wrong has driven the 18-year-old to secure his place at Napier University Edinburgh to study civil engineering.

He is one of two young fostered men – hailed as success stories by Belfast Health and Social Care Trust – who have just started uni.

UK statistics show that care-experienced children and young people have poor educational outcomes in comparison with the child population as a whole.

Daniel, from Ballysillan, north Belfast, has been fortunate enough to have been fostered by couple Scott and Laura from the age of four.

A spokeswoman for Belfast Trust Fostering Service said that there was a particular need for foster families who can offer a child or young person a long-term home.

The story of Daniel's academic success has been revealed as the 'Can You Foster' bus advertising campaign gets under way.

"There are stereotypes about fostered children but I won't be categorised or put into a pigeon hole," said Daniel.

"I take great pride in myself, I feel that I've really excelled and hope to do even better.

"I never felt under academic pressure but my foster carers have always been very encouraging as far as my education is concerned."

He said that his foster father Scott always believed in his potential, and he's now the first of their family to go to university.

However, he spoke of some dark moments in his earlier life: "Yes, there were crippling lows in my younger life, some moments that you can just laugh about now, but at the time it was just devastating.

"And I can only imagine how difficult and disrupting it is to school progress for younger children who are fostered by a number of parents during the school year."

Initially they only looked after one child in the family, his carers started to offer some respite foster care and went on to foster two brothers, now aged 10 and 11.

And continuing on from the support he received, Daniel has been working with his eldest foster brother and nephew to help prepare them for the transfer tests.

"I've been going over all the test papers with them as I want them to do really well. I've been encouraging them to think of getting into grammar school and university. He's very thankful for the additional support he has received throughout his life and advises other young cared for children: "You need to get the best out of the system – there is a lot of support out there for young people in care."

A former pupil of Hazelwood Integrated Secondary School and Methodist College, Belfast, Daniel will continue to call Ballysillian his home throughout the five years of his Masters degree course.

The ambitious student hopes to emigrate to Dubai or China to live after qualifying as a chartered civil engineer.

BACKGROUND

There is a shortage of foster carers throughout each health and social care trust area of Northern Ireland. Some 600 children live with foster carers in the Belfast Trust area. Fostering is generally for a limited period and can be either for a week, a month, a year or more. Adults can consider fostering whatever their race, religion, language, culture, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation or whether married, single, have a partner, are divorced or widowed. To find out more about becoming a foster carer visit www.adoptionandfostering.hscni.net or call 028 9504 0057.

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