Dungannon woman Pauline Hanratty (61) has welcomed more than 20 young people into her home over the past 10 years from countries such as Southeast Asia, Portugal, Latvia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Romania and Poland.
Ironically, many children came here for a better life with their families, only to be cared for.
And it is thanks to foster parents like Pauline that she is finding support and stability among local families.
There are currently so many children and young people in the care system that agencies have taken to social media to solicit people to become foster parents.
The most up-to-date figures show that at the end of March 2020, 2,673 children were living with foster families.
With 3,383 child care and approximately 2,800 foster families in Northern Ireland, there is an urgent need for more people to come on board.
For Palin, who initially opposed the idea, she found herself not only looking after other children but also learning new cultures and getting to grips with new languages.
The grandmother of seven and mother of three has come a long way since 2011, when she was first approached by a friend who is a social worker and was asked to consider promoting.
She recalls: “My initial reaction was to say no, and I found a hundred reasons why it wouldn’t work for me.
“But then I went and thought about it, and I realized that I would be able to take care of a young teenager because I had already raised my own.
“I remember telling my mom that I was thinking about parenting and she said, ‘Have you lost your head?’
“I was initially asked to take a baby for a few weeks, someone I knew, so it was considered kinship care. It was to be for a couple of weeks but a year later she was still with me.
“That’s when my friend suggested I become a full-time foster caregiver and I decided to give it a go.”
After a successful evaluation process, she was approved as a general foster caregiver in January 2013.
A week later another young man went to her house.
Over the years, Pauline has cared for more than 20 young – some last for several years and others only a night or two. What they all have in common is that each of them was treated with respect and dignity and pleasant memories were left behind.
There are many different forms of foster care and Palin has always tried to accommodate whatever is needed.
Short break foster care is often only needed for a short period of time and is usually meant to support foster caregivers where the young person lives.
Pauline has facilitated short breaks of several periods over the years and has found the same support herself.
However, in recent times he has called his adult daughter Nadine on deputation.
Some of the youngsters have been in Pauline’s care for many years and the key to this success is how she has been able to integrate them into the family.
She has raised children from a wide variety of backgrounds and welcomes every youth into her home, regardless of their caste or culture.
She currently has three teenage girls, a 17-year-old from East Timor, a 16-year-old from Romania and a 14-year-old from Northern Ireland.
Taking care of children from a different culture brings its own challenges, not least a language barrier, but Pauline finds a way to make it work.
She explains: “Every day brings its own new experiences of learning, and I am now much more educated in different cultures and traditions around the world.
“I enjoy cooking and I enjoy learning about the foods of the young person’s country so that I can create a dish that is familiar to them.
“Food, language and celebrating cultural holidays are all ways I have made young people feel valued and accepted.
“It’s been a great way for everyone in the house to learn about the world around them, with everyone picking up on phrases from different languages.”
Cultural exchange within the home works both ways.
A shining example of this was how everyone at home celebrated the eventual success of Tyrone’s 2021 All Ireland.
Young people born in distant lands are now ardent members of the ‘red and white army’ of supporters that made Tyrone roar on his fourth Sam Maguire.
Pauline said: “Living in Dungannon, it would have been impossible for them not to be aware of the history of the sport that was unfolding.
“I’m an avid Tyrone fan who’s been dating for many years, so young people can only be sucked into the hype and anticipation in the build-up to the big day.”
Interestingly, this was not the non-Irish contingent’s first foray into the world of the GAA, as one of the youths from South-East Asia had already received the Ulster Feil medal for Camogie and led his Dungannon club in Alter. was representing. -Ireland Feel series.
Pauline believes that many young people who need foster care will come to the homes of those who have had some negative experiences in their lives.
She expects that some young people may display challenging behavior, but soon put them at ease by building trust, providing reassurance, and having a calm and positive outlook on life.
She says: “I can be ‘calm and positive’ in my style that I’ve developed over the years.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction when your efforts work.
“I’ve always chosen to take care of teenage girls. Wee wouldn’t fit our lifestyle.
“I like to take care of older kids because they’re more independent and so in return, I can give them a little more freedom. Young people can make their own way to school and come to stores and meet friends. Can be found – They don’t need a lift in most places because they live in the city of Dungannon.
“It has really boosted their confidence and independence skills and helps provide them with a solid foundation for life as an independent adult.”
Newcastle, Co Down, is a popular destination for Pauline and the youth who care for her.
The family-owned caravan has been put to good use as the lockdown rules have been eased and offers opportunities for different experiences for each youth.
Covid-19 and the lockdown is a chapter that will live on in Pauline’s memory for a long time.
With a long-standing history of asthma, Pauline has been locked down the hardest.
Staying home when possible reduced the risk of infection, and on several occasions it was the support of youth in her care that helped Pauline.
She said: “As much as I helped the girls, I was grateful to them as they got me through the lockdown. I can now reflect on how youth contributed to making the challenging period as easy and fun as possible. ,
Perhaps some of the great rewards Pauline has received has been the progress of young people in her care to achieve academic well-being.
She says: “Study time is traditionally after school and all phones should be set aside – a major house rule!
“A young man who had ‘dropped school’ and spoke no English at age 13 was able to return home at age 17 with nine GCSEs and is still in full-time education after two years. That English Completely fluent in; complete with a perfect dungeon twang!
“Another who had extremely poor school attendance in his first three years in secondary school returned home after three years with eight GCSEs.”
Some youth in foster care return to their homes when previously existing concerns were addressed.
This is an important goal for Pauline because she understands that a young person should remain in foster care only for as long as absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, she has also had the experience of some young people not going back home before their 18th birthday.
Urging others to consider promoting, she adds: “I would really urge people to think about it. I know if you listen to others, you can easily be put off, so all I would tell people is to make up your mind and don’t let anyone let you down, sometimes you just have to take a chance Is.
“All my girls keep in touch and when you get a call from them to tell them that they got a driving license or met a new guy or got a new flat you know you did the right thing.
“As much as I help them, they help me in every way. I guess you just have to try to treat foster kids like yourself and take the rough with the smooth. There are many more rewards than the down sides.
“I never think I’ll withdraw from parenting.”
If you would like more information about becoming a foster caregiver, contact HSC NI Adoption and Foster Care on 0800 0720 137 or visit www.adoptionandfostercare.hscni.ni.net.