Life Family Features

Saturday 24 June 2017

'My life wouldn’t have turned out like it is now' - Woman thanks foster mum who took her in when she was 13

April O'Brien (20) and her foster mum Georgina Byrne
April O'Brien (20) and her foster mum Georgina Byrne

Zainab Boladale

A young woman has thanked her foster mother who embraced her as a part of her family when she was a teenager, and said her life would have been very different without her influence.

April O'Brien (20) was placed into the care of Georgina Bryan when she was 13-years-old.

Over the years April became used moving from place to place and when she came to live with Georgina in Dublin's Blackrock, she didn't expect that her foster mum would become the  the strong support system she craved.

Speaking to Independent.ie, April said she believes she would have ended up leading a different life if  she had not been placed into Georgina's loving home.

"My life wouldn’t have turned out like it is now," said April.

She describes Georgina as "supportive" and even when she acted out, "she was always very emphatic". April and her two-year-old daughter now live in a converted house beside her foster mother and she is enrolled in a course in hopes of becoming a social worker.

Georgina has been fostering children for 35 years and said throughout the years she has had children from all walks of life come through her doors. She loves being able to enrich the lives of young people who have had troubled and turbulent upbringings. Georgina feels the most difficult part has been helping teenagers who are struggling with an addiction. 

"It wasn’t always successful. Some were very addicted and some not so educated."

Georgina's aim has always been to help the teenagers break their previous habits and behaviours.

"If they have not been nurtured from birth to the age of three it is difficult to repair all the damage that is already there.

"It is counterproductive to keep people who do not want to progress but some of them want to."

Georgina had a little studio-apartment styled house built at the side of her home so that the teenagers who have turned 18 can feel like they have their own place to stay. She said it gives them a sense of freedom while still being under supervision. "They lived there till they could look after themselves, they could call me. They were living almost independently."

The foster mum said the standard of support for both the foster children and foster carers have been raised over the years but the biggest has been the introduction of a helpline by the Irish Foster Care Association which gives more support to foster carers, however she suggests it needs to be open in the evenings or during the weekend.

Her advice to those who are considering fostering children is to "just follow your inkling, there is a lot of support and it’s very hard, but it does bring a lot of joy."

By the end of February, there were 6,309 children in care in Ireland and 92pc of these children were in foster care. Tusla is currently recruiting foster carers across the country especially in the Dublin area. Those interested in fostering can get more information on the Tusla website, www.fostering.ie

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