Saturday 21 September 2019

'Sean loves love and he’s always happy' - Irish couple adopt boy they fostered when he was just eight weeks old

Sean Hickey with his adoptive parents Ursula and Peter.
Sean Hickey with his adoptive parents Ursula and Peter.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Two Irish parents signed an adoption order yesterday, allowing them to formally adopt their son Sean - more than 17 years after they first fostered him.

Sean (17) has lived with Ursula Hickey (62) and her husband Peter since he was eight weeks old, and he has Down’s syndrome.

“He’s very sociable, he loves people, he’s very caring and very loving, outgoing, and if you give Sean a bar of chocolate he’d be as happy as if he won the lotto," Ursula said.

“Sean has taught us things like what really is important. He loves love, he’s always happy, he’s happy with the smallest thing.”

It's a happy coincidence for the Hickey family that the day they formally welcome him into the family juxtaposes with World Down Syndrome Day, which occurs today.

“He came to live with us at eight weeks old; he came straight from a maternity hospital," , Ursula told

“He was a short-term foster placement but as soon as we got him settled in, there was never a doubt in my mind that he was staying.”

She added: “We thought it was very apt that he was adopted the day before World Down Syndrome Day.”

Ursula, who has fostered children for 36 years, and her family celebrated Sean’s adoption last night with a family get-together.

He’s the youngest in the Hickey family, and has five sisters and a brother.

“Over the 36 years, we’d have fostered many children, short term and long term, and I really recommend it to anyone who loves children. It’s very rewarding.”

“Sean has taught us more than we’d have ever learned without him,” Ursula said.

Sean has attended school in St Mary’s in Ashbourne, and St Ultan’s special school in Navan. But now that he’s 17, Ursula is trying to find a suitable service for him to attend when he leaves school.

“He was very well looked after in St Mary’s in Ashbourne, and St Ultan’s in Navan where he met amazing teachers, lovely friends and people that he built friendships with. He always knew he was very well loved and looked after.”

“Moving on, there’s less available for Sean than I would like. I’d love if he could continue into further education with people his own age.”

“That’s the saddest part at the minute - that we’re very densely populated around Ashbourne, and there are a lot of people with special needs going on buses to Navan. Services are very poor around the area for people with special needs.”

Sean needs to learn new life skills like cyber safety.

She added: “He’d be learning life skills. He needs to learn about money and how to be safe on the internet. All of those things need time and teaching. He wouldn’t be equipped to be fully independent yet.”

Ursula added: “We aspire to it; never say never. Sean learns very slowly, but every day he learns something and that would make my day.”

She added: “The way they really learn best is hands-on so it would be really great if there were more services available to children and adults with special needs.”

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