Tusla and Traveller Families Care recently held an event to express gratitude for their collaborative work with the Travelling Community. The event, which took place on Monday, November 13th, celebrated their joint Project under the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy.
The Project aims to increase the number of culturally appropriate foster homes available to children from Traveller and Roma backgrounds. The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth of Ireland, Roderick O Gorman, delivered a video message at the event hosted by Bridge Power. Other speakers at the event included Clare Murphy, who works in Direct Services and Integration at Tusla; Jacqueline Smyth, the National Lead for Foster Care; Bridget Kelly, National Traveller Women’s Forum; Maureen Ward; Minceir Whidden; Ruth Guy; and the project coordinator.
Listening to the Voice of the Community
Ruth Guy, coordinator of the Project, has worked with Traveller Families Care Clg since 2013. She told Travellers’ Voice, “When the project began, the focus was on learning and working with the communities to make sure the voices of community members were heard.” She added, “We also wanted to increase mutual understanding about the barriers and challenges for Travellers considering becoming foster carers.”
Shared Raring was initiated by Traveller Families Care and later by HSE.
The Project aimed to recruit foster carers from the Traveller community, and it proved to be successful, thanks to the efforts of Micheal Mc Donagh (RIP) and Ciaran Roche, now the chairperson of Traveller Families Care Clg. We are building on this success and hoping to recruit more foster carers from the community. We will support them throughout the process to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and resources.
Ruth led a collaborative project to address concerns of the Traveller community. They created leaflets, organized info sessions & designed an eye-catching pin to raise awareness about fostering. In 2022, animated social media ads featuring foster carers and a young person from Travelling community were released to increase awareness about fostering.
The Project, which initially started in Dublin and the Midlands, has now expanded to cover several counties in the northeast. This year, it aims to become a national initiative. The Project has engaged with numerous Irish Travellers to discuss fostering and answer any related questions. It has also been invited to community events and celebrations to spread the message of fostering. All of this, says Ruth, “has been made possible thanks to the support of local and national Traveller organisations”.
She added, “It is an excellent example of the achievement of organisations working together in a culture of respect and understanding.”
Bridget Power, a Project Worker who began working on the Project in Sep 2022 and has over twenty years of experience working with the Traveller community, told us. “A Traveller must be involved in this Project,” she says, “Someone from the community with a greater understanding of the community and a first-hand experience of the daily issues.” Brigette continued, “They can lead the way for non-Travellers working within this Project and guide them on the Traveller way.” She added, “The Travelling Community at the heart of this Project is the only way it will work.”
Why the Project is so Important
According to Ruth, this Project aims to raise awareness about the need for foster carers within the Travelling Community and to dispel common myths about foster care. Ruth explained, “We want to support those interested in becoming approved foster carers. It would be best if a child could remain with their family. However, this is only sometimes possible.” She continued,” In such cases, the next best option is for the child to stay within their community, where they can maintain their identity and grow up in a family environment.” Ruth added,” They must feel at home and comfortable with who they are without hiding their Traveller identity from the world.”
Acknowledging and Celebrating Collaborations
The event on November 13th was a celebration and acknowledgement of the collaborative approaches of all who participated in the Project. “Gratitude”, Ruth said,” is expressed to be one of the best ways to focus on what we have rather than what we do not have, and having a gratitude event is a way for this Project to show how grateful we are to all those who have supported us throughout the last few years with this Project.” Brigette reiterated Ruth’s statement, “It would not have begun without the Traveller Community members rowing behind this Project. Not just the Project alone but also the community coming to our information sessions and taking the time to hear what we are saying.” Both Ruth and Brigette agreed that the community and project feedback” has allowed us to grow and flourish.”
Ruth attributed the success of the Project to the collaboration working with members of the Traveller community. “The Travellers are experts in their community, and their consultation and engagement were necessary. The community welcomed us with open arms and gave us the time and opportunity to grow, and I cannot express how grateful I am to them.”
She added,” As the project coordinator, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most excellent and genuine people. I admire the unity and the spirit of empowering each other that the travelling community has, and I wish my community could work the same way.”
Ruth and Brigette expressed their gratitude for the Tusla team, Traveller Families Care, and the Travelling community’s patience and support during the Project’s three-year duration. The Project aims to implement culturally appropriate practices, and they believe the community’s trust is essential. Ruth also highlighted the need for Traveller Foster Carers and the community’s investment.
A Heartfelt Thank you from Ruth & Bridgette
Can we say on a final note that it is essential to thank those who have walked beside us in this Project, to acknowledge that without the community, this Project would not work, but also get the message out that we have the ears to listen and will always try to speak their words the best we can? If we ask something of someone, regardless of whether they respond or not, they listen, and that is all we can ask for, and we are forever grateful.
We also want to thank Pat Stokes from the Irish Traveller Movement, who greeted our guests at registration.
Those who present at the event included;
- Paddy Martin, National Lead for Alternative Care Reform in Tusla
- Members of Traveller Families Care Clg Sister Ann and Carian Roche
- Director of Traveller Families Care Patricia Dowling
- Social Workers involved in the Project,
- Meath Traveller Heritage Group,
- ITM, NTWF, Bray Development, CEART, Offaly Traveller Movement, Longford PHCP, Exchange House, Westmeath Traveller Group, Jimmy Tood Community Development Officer and five others from this programme, Laois Traveller Group, Kildare Traveller Action Group.