As part of Barnardo’s Fostering Week campaign, Belfast couple Colin & Sharon Jamison are sharing their story, of what it’s been like to be foster carers for almost 30 years.

The couple, who live in Belfast, has fostered more than 20 children, including siblings and children with disabilities and during Barnardo’s Fostering Week, they hope that by sharing their story it may encourage others to consider fostering.

After a friend recommended fostering to Colin and Sharon, the couple went to a local Barnardo’s information evening to find out more. The event gave Colin and Sharon the opportunity to listen to other carers’ experiences, which they found reassuring and helpful, and they started to believe that they too, could become foster carers.

Throughout their many years of fostering, the couple has cared for children with a wide range of needs and behaviours, including young people with challenging behaviours, teenagers and those with life-limiting disabilities.

Colin says that as a foster carer “you have to look past what you’re seeing on the exterior and find the young child.”

“We’ve had children who have had multiple carers before us and have lost their identity along the way. It’s important for us to give these young people the security they need.”

He admits that it is not always easy, “but you simply cannot put a price on supporting a child and the difference you get to see in them.”

The couple has a special memory from a time when they cared for a young person who had severe disabilities and was unable to communicate. They were told that she was physically unable to express any emotions. After months of supporting her, Colin and Sharon experienced her first-ever smile and said it was “the most special moment and we truly felt like we made a difference in her life. It was such a huge step, both for us and for her. It felt like she had got her identity back.”

Head of Barnardo’s NI Michele Janes said:

“It is wonderful to work alongside foster carers like Colin and Sharon and to see the huge difference they can make to a child or young person’s life. Barnardo’s has more than 100 years of experience finding families for vulnerable children and we have a real need for more foster carers in Northern Ireland. We welcome foster carers from all walks of life and you could be suitable if you are; aged 21 or over, have a spare bedroom and have the time and commitment to care for a child or young person.”

To find out more about Barnardo’s Fostering Week and how to become a foster carer, visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering-week or call 0800 0277 280.