Barry Mohan and his wife Cathy have always loved children.
They have two birth children, their daughter Caoimhe, who studies Law at Queens University Belfast and their son Faolán, who has additional needs and attends a special school.
Last year, they decided to open their homes and their hearts to a long-term foster child. For the Mohan’s, it has been the best thing that they’ve ever done.
We caught up with Barry to find out more about their journey and some of the lessons they have learned along the way.
Starting their journey
“Fostering was something that we began talking about years ago,” Barry explains. “The decisive moment came when we were at a school sports day for my son. There was another child there from our son’s class and we started talking to her. We asked, ‘Are your mummy and daddy here cheering you on?’ and she said, ‘No, they’re not here.’ This made us realise that there are so many more children who need more support and stability and we agreed that we had the time and space to welcome another child into our home.
“We then talked to our son’s social worker and she put us in touch with Barnardo’s NI. In the beginning, we provided respite care to a foster child once a fortnight. This allowed us to dip our toe in the water to see if fostering was suitable for us and if it would work for our family. We did respite fostering for about a year and then moved to long-term fostering for children with additional needs.”
For Barry and Cathy, the decision to take a child into their home was an easy one.
“We knew we could provide a good, stable home,” he explains. “When you chat to other foster carers, everyone has that same thought. You want to look after a child and give them the best possible chance in life.”
Fostering during a pandemic
Shortly after the Mohan’s welcomed their foster child into their home, the pandemic struck. But Barry believes it has had a positive impact.
“It gave us all time to spend together as a family and allowed us to bond with our foster child. When the weather was good, we were able to get out into the garden and do things as a family. We got the paddling pool out and had some fun messing about. We all had fun and got to know each other better.
“You weren’t pressurised, and you didn’t have that time constraint where you think you have to be somewhere. You were able to do things on a whim. We had some great family time.”
A community of carers
While fostering comes with unique challenges and trials, Barry believes that the support you receive is unparalleled.
“It’s like a community,” he explains. “When you’re talking to other carers, everybody is in it for the same reason, to provide that love and support to children who need it.
“When we joined Barnardo’s NI, they introduced us to a buddy, somebody with a bit more experience and by pure luck they lived a couple of doors up from us. All the other carers are more than happy to give advice or help if you need it. There’s a wealth of experience there.”
Providing a secure home
The Mohan’s foster child has been with them for 12 months now, during that time Barry has given up his career and become a full-time carer.
“He has only been here a year, but it feels a lot longer,” he admits. “It feels like he has been part of the family for a longer time than that. Our foster son definitely has improved, that’s great to see. Anyone I talk to about fostering, I always tell them to just go for it.”
Advice for fosterers
For other couples thinking about fostering a child this year, Barry has nothing but encouragement.
“Make your enquiries, It’s not hard to enquire. When we phoned Barnardo’s, we immediately felt like part of the family. They can’t do enough for you. They provide great training which makes you feel like you’re ready for it. You feel able to cope no matter what situation you’re faced with. When you are going through the assessment, there are so many opportunities to ask questions and find out more, there is no pressure.
“Everyone and anyone can apply. It doesn’t make a difference what your background is, it’s all about what you can offer. If you can offer a loving, caring home, if you have an extra bedroom and you are over 21, speak to someone at Barnardo’s NI today.”
#If you would like to know more about fostering with Barnardo’s Northern Ireland you can contact them on 028 9065 2288 or learn more about fostering with Barnardo’s NI online.