Newtownabbey man urges residents to consider being foster carers
In the run up to Father’s Day, a Newtownabbey man is urging east Antrim residents to consider being foster parents.
Trevor Fitzsimmons, 56, and his wife Tracey, 50, were approved as foster parents in 2015 and since then they have gone on to foster eight young children in six years.
“Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story,” Trevor explains.
Trevor worked for a large engineering company for 18 years before beginning his fostering journey with FCA. He said: “I was happy in my job in engineering, but I began to feel part of the ‘rat race’, trying to hit targets and goals and things like that, and I really wanted to do something different with my life.
“I had a conversation with my wife and found that we both shared the same feelings of wanting something new and different in our lives.
“Fostering had always been touched upon and talked about, but it wasn’t until we heard an advert on the radio calling out for foster carers that really encouraged us to consider this as a new journey. I thought to myself ‘no one ever looks back on their life and says, ‘I spent too much time with children’ and that’s when I really took the life changing decision to leave engineering and start fostering children who are in need of a loving home.
“I was leader in churches club which was working with 11-18 year olds, as well as the holiday bible club which was with ages 5-11, so most of my experience with children was church based.”
Trevor is the main foster carer of his two foster children, but Tracey, his wife is a huge support as well as his step daughter, Anona, who is 18 and has recently been passed as a support worker.
He added: “As well as family, we have a close circle of friends who are so supportive, and our church family are a great support system too. We also have the support from FCA which is so valuable for a foster carer to have.”
Trevor and his family have looked after children and young people on respite whilst they have been waiting for full-time children.
Trevor continued: “We have looked after two sibling groups since 2015. One sibling group of three and one long term sibling group of two which is with us now.
“The children with us now are supported by us as well as our birth daughter, who is fully involved in their lives. Our birth daughter says she has gained more than she has lost during this experience, and loves being involved with these children, which really helps us to do our job better knowing that she is 100 per cent behind us.”
Commenting on the impact fostering has made on Trevor and his family’s life, he stated: “Birth children know that their parents are doing an amazing thing by fostering children who need a loving home and seeing our own daughter recently pass as a support worker makes us overwhelmingly happy.
“Birth children play such an important role, they end up being a foster sister/brother and our daughter has certainly been that supportive person in our family unit which is so special to see. She sits in on some of our courses and has such an active role in these children’s lives, which is amazing.
“For the three of us, fostering has enriched our lives in many ways. It can be hard as foster parents, of course, as there are many different and sometimes challenging things that foster children may require, but as long as you are providing that love, energy and guidance that they need, you are doing the right thing.”
The most challenging part of fostering for Trevor is recognising that a lot of children coming into care have varying needs that sometimes aren’t able to be fixed overnight.
He explained: “A lot of these children are maybe feeling frightened, resentful, angry and most of all lost and we are just strangers to them at the start, which is hard. They are vulnerable and distressed and it’s important that we each play a part as a family in changing that and supporting the child as much as we can.
“One thing we have found is that as a foster parent, you will always be learning. You must have a lot of patience and understanding and be able to provide a lot of love. Our philosophy as a family is that we are prepared to be able to give every child who comes to us a better future.”
There have been many special moments for Trevor during his fostering journey so far.
He explained: “Tracey and I have had the privilege of being granted long term foster carers for the two siblings we have now and we’ll never forget watching their faces light up with joy and excitement when we told them that this was going to be their new forever home, which was such a significant moment for us.
“We aren’t 100 per cent familiar with their start in life, but we can certainly be a big part of their future, which is an amazing feeling. One of the most rewarding moments for us was when the foster children called us ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’. That is such an amazing moment, and that privilege is never lost on us.
“The process for us took around seven to eight months. The process was time consuming and hard at times, of course, but it was so worth it! Right from the word go we felt so supported from FCA. We went with FCA because they offer 24/7 round the clock support and at any time, we were able to pick up the phone and ask for help if we needed it. We have never looked back since and we always recommend FCA for 24/7 supported fostering.”
Trevor has this piece of advice for anyone considering fostering; “People often say ‘now’s not a good time for us to foster but we think, ‘when is a good time?’ there are children out there needing care and if you are able to provide it, go for it. A lot of children may never show their feelings or their gratitude, but don’t underestimate the difference that you can make in their lives. You may never hear it, but just know how important fostering is to a child’s life.”
For more information about fostering with FCA, call 0800 023 4561 or visit www.thefca.co.uk/regions/northern-ireland/
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