For almost 20 years KCC foster carers Mary and Bob Howse have opened their home to disabled children with complex needs.
So, when asked to appear on Channel 5’s ‘Do the Right Thing’ with Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, they leapt at the chance to raise awareness about the vital lifeline short break fostering placements can be for parents and carers.
What the Chart Sutton husband and wife didn’t know is some of the children, parents and carers they had helped were waiting in the wings at Maidstone Studio to surprise them with heartfelt thanks for their amazing contribution.
Among them was Ryan, who read out a touching note in front of the packed audience. He said: “Thank you for looking after me and James. I am grateful for all the care, time and effort you have provided for me.
“It has been a wonderful experience spending time with you both which has turned into good memories that I will cherish.”
Mary and Bob began their fostering journey with KCC almost 18-years ago. Mary, a 64-year-old former residential social worker, has experience of working with deaf adults and has a Level 2 qualification in British Sign Language.
Bob, 67, has worked in freight transport in Dover.
Together they have provided short breaks for around 30 children.
“It has been absolutely brilliant,” said Mary. Every time we had a child with complex needs referred to us we had full training and support provided to us.
“We have had children with cerebral palsy, epilepsy and others on the autistic spectrum.
“We use a monthly rota, and most placements last for two nights, meaning we can foster 14 different children in a month.”
“But it isn’t just about the children, it is about the families as well. What we are doing helps their families. Sometimes the parents or carers are absolutely worn out and we can give them a break and they may have more time to give to other children they might have.
“To see young people blossoming and families growing together and happy is wonderful.”
“When they return it is so rewarding to see families revitalised.”
“It was a great shock but lovely to see them all at the studio,” Mary added. “Some we had lost contact with or hadn’t seen in many years. There was also a young lady who couldn’t be on the program but who sent us a most beautiful email about her time with us.”
As well as a chance to reconnect with children they’ve looked after, Mary and Bob were also treated to a night at the theatre and a hotel stay in London.
Being a carer for a disabled child with complex needs can be physically and emotionally draining. Short break placements like those offered by Bob and Mary can provide much-needed respite.
More foster carers are needed in Kent for children with learning difficulties and disabilities. They can be single or in a long-term relationships, with or without their own children and they don’t need to own their own home.
To find out more, visit the Folkestone information event on May 16 from 7pm at Enbrook Park Pavilion, Sandgate, CT20 3SE.
Alternatively, visit www.kentfostering.co.uk or phone 03000 420002 and speak to an advisor.
For further information about the Kent County Council Communications Office contact David Gazet on 03000 422589 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.kent.gov.uk/news or www.twitter.com/kent_cc for news from Kent County Council.
Notes for journalists
- Bob and Mary appeared on the program on Thursday, March 29.