Vulnerable children in the north west are being forced to leave friends and split up from siblings because of a shortage of foster carers across the region.
The Telegraph has learned that there are around 30 children aged from toddlers to teenagers waiting to be placed with foster carers.
There is now a particular shortage of homes for children aged between seven and 12 in the area as the overall numbers being taken into care continue to rise.
Children are fostered when they are unable to live with their own families for a variety of reasons, such as family breakdown, relationship difficulties, neglect, abuse or parental ill-health.
More people willing to open their homes to foster children are urgently needed and a new campaign is being launched by Western Health and Social Care Trust in Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh. Public information events will take place between February 25 and March 1.
“There are currently a number of children aged seven to 12 years old who need a short and long-term home in the Western Trust area and they need the help of the public to become their foster parents,” Dympna Brogan, the trust’s social work manager at the Fostering Recruitment and Assessment Team, said.
“A shortage of foster carers may result in children or young people living with foster carers outside the local area they come from and therefore having to travel significant distances to school, being far away from their family and friends, sometimes even having to be split from their siblings.
“We want to find the right foster home for each child or young person, first-time round.” The trust has revealed there are now 290 foster carers in the Western area.
Pat Armstrong, Western Trust head of fostering, said: “All children have a right to grow up in a safe, secure and caring family where they are nurtured and developed.
“I would like to encourage anyone thinking about fostering to come along to the information sessions and speak to experienced staff who will guide and support them through the fostering process.”
If you feel you could make a difference and help one child through a difficult time in their lives, contact Dympna Brogan, recruitment team manager, Western Trust, by telephone: (028) 7131 4244 or (028) 8283 5264 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, call 0800 0720 137 or visit www.adoptionandfostering.hscni.net.
Monday, February 25 at 7.30pm, Waterfoot Hotel, Derry.
Tuesday, February 26 at 7.30pm, South West College, (Omagh campus).
Wednesday, February 27 at 7.30pm, South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen.
Thursday, February 28 at 7.30pm, Fir Trees Hotel, Strabane.
Friday, March 1 at 10.30 am to 2pm, Public Services Centre, High Street, Omagh.