Celebrating our foster carers
The hard work, commitment and dedication of Buckinghamshire County Council's foster carers was celebrated at a special awards ceremony and dinner on Friday evening (8 September).
Organised by the Council’s Fostering Team, the awards, attended by over 100 guests, recognised long service and training success and also offered the opportunity to give special praise to individuals and couples for a range of achievements.
The awards are now in their 11th year and give the unique opportunity for the County Council to celebrate the hard work, enthusiasm and commitment to caring for children of all its foster carers.
For the first time this year a range of new awards were introduced including best new-comer, service to disabled children and outstanding contribution to fostering. Also for the first time this year we introduced an award that was voted for by the public.
Six individuals and couples were nominated for the Foster Carer of the Year award with the public invited to vote online for their favourite. The prize went to Gemma and Adam Butler who became foster parents to their four nieces and nephews following a tragic family event.
Speaking after the event Gemma said: "We're amazed as we didn't expect to win in all honesty. We're doing it because they are family so it doesn't feel like anything special, and it's become family life now. So it's really nice to have that acknowledged as it's really hard work."
Sheila and Alastair Kay won the award for Best Newcomer to fostering. Their first child had no verbal communication and significant special needs. After a year with them, he has made significant progress with his speech and they have made a huge difference to his life.
Sheila said about fostering: “It’s about being part of making a difference. You can’t put a price on being part of bringing out the deeply hidden abilities of a child which changes their self-esteem and enables them to engage in a more effective way and changes the expectations of others for the better. We have also learned more about ourselves as well as how to foster children. We have a greater respect for parents, carers and those who work with children who have special needs. They are unsung heroes!”
Chris Driscoll won the award for her Outstanding Contribution to Fostering as she goes the extra mile helping to run the South Bucks support group, is a mentor to other foster carers whilst caring for young babies and toddlers alongside her own four children.
Chris said: "Being a foster carer can be challenging, emotionally and physically exhausting at times but it is so, so worth it. Seeing the progress the little one makes, seeing them begin to flourish and remembering what a privilege it is to care for them in this stepping stone of their lives is so amazing. Opening our hearts and home in this way has been the best decision we’ve made as a family.”
Juliet Cleverdon won the award for Service to Disabled Children for her dedication to caring for these children. Speaking after the event she said: "It was a real surprise, I was not expecting it at all and I'm very honoured and proud. I'm very passionate about working with children with disabilities so it makes the last 30 odd years worth it. I love doing it and I'll continue to do so with my very supportive husband."
She was nominated by a young person who said: "Juliet strives to make sure that children are getting the best out of life and are treated as equals. She fights for the rights of children that have disabilities to make sure that they receive the help they need later in life."
The evening also celebrated those for their commitment to fostering.
Ron and Kate Gutteridge received an award for 25 years of respite fostering. Kate said: "We feel it's a real privilege to foster and we gain so much more from it than we give. Giving respite to a family is such a worthwhile thing to do and can be a real life saver to some families."
Keith and Sally Howard have been fostering for an amazing 35 years.
They said: "We do it because the children appreciate what we do for them. We have mainly done long term care and we build up relationships with the children and keep in contact with most of them. One of our foster children visits every weekend with his two children. They're our family."
A full list of the other winners on the night can be found on our website: www.buckscc.gov.uk/fosteringawards
Awards were presented by Warren Whyte, Buckinghamshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Children Services and Netta Glover, Vice Chairman.
Cllr Whyte said: "Our foster carers do a fantastic job all year round and deserve recognition for all their hard work, enthusiasm and dedication.
“They look after children and young people at a time when they need it most. I would like to congratulate them all on their tremendous achievements, and thank them for their invaluable contribution in opening up their homes and hearts to these children and young people.”
Could you foster? We are always keen to hear from anyone interested in becoming a foster carer. You really can make a difference to the life of a child or young person and help to make sure Bucks children can stay close to their local community. We will provide you with all the training and support you need.
Foster carers can be of any age over 21 years old, homeowners or tenants, employed or unemployed, single or in a relationship. There really is no typical foster carer.
Anyone wishing to find out more about fostering, contact the council’s fostering team on 01296 382555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org