WHEN GER and Antoinette Duffy’s oldest daughter was born, they didn’t want her to grow up as an only child.
And she certainly hasn’t had that experience as the couple went on to have two more children of their own and foster 34 kids in their home on Island Road.
“We had two miscarriages after our eldest was born. We were told the chances of us having more children were slim to none,” Ger Duffy told the Limerick Post.
“We didn’t want her to be on her own. Around the same time, we knew another couple who were fostering. We got talking to them about it and it just took off from there.”
All three children in the Duffy family are now adults and grew up with more brothers and sisters than anyone could have hoped for.
“It was normal to them to come home from school and find there was a new child in the house. As far as they were concerned, that’s just what happened.”
The Duffys have had taken small charges into their family for anything from a few days to eight years.
They have seen hurt and frightened children arrive and nurtured them to the day they spread their wings and leave as confident adults.
“These kids come to us and they are coming into care for a reason. It’s not easy if you’re a child to be in a home where you think things are normal and then to be taken out and brought to strangers.
“You have to work with them and give them as much help as possible. Sometimes it doesn’t work out for a particular child with a family but that’s not the foster carer’s fault or the child’s. You just have to do the best you can for them,” said Ger.
The longest care periods that the Duffy’s have had children for are five, six and eight years. Other children have come for shorter spans but they all remember their time on Island Road.
“I might be in town and someone would come up to me and say ‘hi Ger’. I’d have to look at them for a minute because the last time I saw them they were five or six years old. But it’s lovely that they remember us.”
Fostering involves joys and challenges, Ger believes.
“It’s the very same as raising your own kids. There are ups and downs and you get on with it.”
As a foster carer of such long-standing and experience, Ger is frequently called on to give talks to prospective new fosterers.
“What I tell them is to stay in touch, with the fostering organisation and with other foster carers. If there’s an issue or a problem, speak up. You get fantastic support and whatever the problem is, there are other parents who have been there before you and can help.”
Child and family agency Tusla, has launched an urgent Foster Care Recruitment Campaign in the Mid West region. There are currently 523 children in care and 375 Tusla foster carers in the Mid West.
In 2021, 219 new foster carers joined Tusla, and 592 children entered foster care for the first time. However, this figure falls far short of the current need for foster care placements.
A local placement will ensure a young person can maintain important connections with their friends, sports, school, and community, and reach their full potential.
Further information on fostering is available here