Newry women share their foster care experiences

Two women from Newry spoke about the highlights and challenges of opening their homes and hearts to vulnerable young people as foster families.

Ciara Heaney and Bronagh Galloghly were talking about the first episode of a new podcast, “Voices of Fostering”, which explores how foster care can change the lives of caregivers and young people.

The podcast seeks to discover what draws people to foster care, the benefits it brings and the impact it has on families, while highlighting some of the challenges that can arise with caring for young people. .

Hosted by Melanie Coffey, Senior Placement and Adoption Manager, Southern Region, and Fionnuala McAtamney, Lead Consultant Psychologist, each episode deals with a different aspect of placement.

There are currently over 3,500 children currently in care outside of their birth families in Northern Ireland and of these, almost 82% are in foster care.

With growing numbers of young people in care, The Fostering Network estimates that 265 additional foster families are needed across Northern Ireland to ensure that every child and young person receives the care they need from families welcome within their own community.

Melanie said: “We desperately need more foster families to come forward, but we know and appreciate that this can be a big decision.

“The best foster care advocates are the people who do it every day, so this new podcast can be a very valuable tool for us to recruit more foster families.

Ciara Heane
Ciara and Brendan Heaney

“It allows listeners to hear what motivates people to become host families, the process they go through to register, and the ongoing training and support they receive. We also hear from family members, as the impact on them is something potential host families need to consider.

“We also don’t want to avoid some of the challenges that exist for carers, but we believe that by talking about it openly, people can be fully informed to make decisions.

“Another thing we hear regularly is that people’s family circumstances make them think they are not eligible to become foster parents. But with different types of placements, chances are you’ll find something that works for you.

“Our HSC NI Foster Care community is made up of a rich mix of people, including couples, single foster families, parents and adult children who live together, and foster families from ethnic minorities and of the LGBTQ+ community.

In the first episode, the foster families, Ciara Heaney and Bronagh Galloghly, reveal how they got involved in the foster family.

Bronagh said: “My own children are now adults with their own children. I loved being a full time mom and it left a huge void in my life when I couldn’t do that anymore. I knew something had to give as I started shopping for clothes for the dog!

“My husband and I just thought we had a nice house that we could use a lot more, so we phoned our local hospitality team and never looked back. I love every minute and encourage others to do the same.

Foster care wasn’t on Ciara Heaney’s radar until her daughter revealed to her how badly HSC NI Foster Care needs more recruits.

Ciara said: “We have five biological children, two of whom still live at home, six grandchildren and a cousin also lives with us, so it was a busy house. We are now caring for two other youngsters and have become very passionate about fostering.

“My eldest daughter is a social worker, but I had never really heard of foster care. One evening, my daughter came home and said to me: “Mom, there is a great need for foster families, wouldn’t you try?

“My husband and I discussed it and made the phone call. The first step was the hardest part, but since then we have been guided through it. I would recommend the host family to anyone who.

To listen to the first episode of “Voices of Fostering”, go to

If you want to find out more about becoming a foster parent, call HSC NI Foster Care on 0800 0720 137 or visit