Orchard Fostering was established in 2008 and is today the leading independent fostering agency in Ireland. Based in Dublin, we have grown from the original owners to a staff of over 30.

We provide foster care and support lodgings across the Republic of Ireland for children and young people with a variety of different needs. We recruit foster carers through an in-depth assessment process, and then follow up with round-the-clock support throughout their fostering journey.

Young people are referred to us by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Our job is to find the best match of foster carer for them. There are well over 5,000 children and young people in need of foster homes in Ireland, but less than 3,000 foster families, so we are constantly searching for new foster carers.

It is extremely rewarding to be working in an organisation that makes such a difference to the lives of so many young people

A key part of my role is to prepare ambitious yet achievable annual budgets for sign-off by the board. To ensure the business is on track to achieve set targets, I maintain close working relationships with the foster carer assessment team and with our placement manager. I also sit on the senior management team and work with other senior members of the organisation to ensure that our strategies are implemented effectively.

As financial controller, I oversee all financial aspects of the organisation, supervising accounts receivable, accounts payable and bank reconciliations. I also produce monthly management accounts and forecasts for the board.

While I enjoyed my previous roles in the financial services sector, I felt I needed something more from my work. It is extremely rewarding to be working in an organisation that makes such a difference to the lives of so many young people.

For me, an important part of business is building relationships. Being approachable and reliable, as well as treating colleagues with respect, leads to good working relationships, which are vital if an organisation is to succeed and achieve its goals.

During the pandemic, some foster carers were understandably anxious about taking new people into their homes. However, many of our placements are long term and our social workers and social care workers continued to support the foster families.

We also had to assess potential new foster families through the pandemic. Again, some foster carers were concerned about having the team in their home, so we moved to online meetings where possible. As society reopens, we have largely returned to the pre-pandemic model of support and assessment, for the most part operating via in-person meetings.

There are a couple of areas in fostering that I believe need attention from the government. The foster carer allowance has remained unchanged since 2009. During this same period, the CPI inflation rate has been 12.1%. In addition, I would like to see better support for children in care, including access to therapy services to enable them to manage the trauma they have faced in their early lives.

We also need to extend the age that children can obtain support. Young people need to develop and grow, knowing they will have access to State support beyond the age of 18.