A former Mayor of Antrim has spoken of the joy fostering has brought to his family’s life, backing an appeal by Barnardo’s NI for people to consider fostering.
Adrian Cochrane-Watson, a former Ulster Unionist Councillor, and his wife Heather have been foster carers with Barnardo’s NI for the past five years.
The Antrim couple, who have three children of their own - two daughters in their 20s, and a teenage son - have fostered six children, including emergency placements, short breaks and long term fostering.
They are currently fostering a 15-year-old, a four-year-old boy and an 18-month-old baby girl.
Heather says it was Adrian who first suggested they foster as he grew up in an extended family.
A Barnardo’s advert for foster carers caught their eye and decided to follow it up.
“Life has been very kind to us and our children and we thought we could give another child a home,” Adrian said.
They made an appointment to attend an initial fostering information evening and five years on they haven’t looked back.
Adrian says fostering has so many rewards: “It can be challenging but seeing the children achieve milestones in
their lives like taking their first steps, or enjoying their first Christmas, or going on a plane for the first time, or when they get older and getting their first part time job and their first pay.
“Helping them achieve those things and getting to share and celebrate is fantastic.”
Heather says having the support from Barnardo’s Fostering Service is also vital: “The team at Barnardo’s know us so well and if our key worker isn’t there everyone else knows us and the children.
“It’s a small team so the support is very personal. It feels like an extended family. There are regular support group meetings and training courses and you get to know everyone. It’s a network and we all have the same shared experience and we understand each other. It’s just good to know you’re not on your own and Barnardo’s are always there 24/7 if we need them.”
Heather and Adrian say their own children have welcomed the foster children and look on them as little brothers and sisters.
“They just dote on the children and our own families, aunts and uncles and grandparents are all supportive as well. They treat all the children the same when it comes to Christmas and birthdays and recently everyone coming round to see the baby walking.”
To anyone thinking about fostering Heather and Adrian say they would encourage them wholeheartedly: “Definitely look into it. It is challenging but the training and support Barnardo’s provides will help.
“The enjoyment you get helping a child grow and develop is so rewarding. It is bringing someone into your house who brings challenges, but also brings so many rewards and opportunities.”
For more information about fostering with Barnardo’s, phone 028 9065 2288 or visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering or visit Barnardo’s Fostering NI Facebook page.