Foster carers and staff from across Kent have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to the lives of the county’s children in care, at the Kent Fostering Foster Carer Awards 2020.
In line with Covid-19 restrictions the event was held virtually on and was hosted by Kent County Council (KCC) Assistant Director of Corporate Parenting, Caroline Smith.
Children, social workers, partner agencies and other foster carers put forward a record number of 149 recommendations to a panel of judges for a total of 18 categories, including outstanding care of children, disabled children, keeping sibling groups together and permanency.
Single foster carers and couples were among this year’s winners, some having only been fostering for a short time while others had been looking after Kent children for more than 30 years.
Each winner received a certificate, trophy and a hamper individually at their homes presented by KCC social workers following social distancing guidance.
Caroline Smith, said: “In what has been a very difficult year I am delighted that we are able to celebrate our fantastic foster carers in Kent again using technology and a virtual approach to help make this happen under current social distancing restrictions. The pandemic has been hard on everyone but despite the added difficulties this has brought, we received a record amount of nominations this year.
“This virtual awards ceremony celebrates not just the winning foster carers and staff but also acknowledges that all our foster carers have, and continue to, do an exceptional job for our children and young people in their care, particularly through the trials of Covid-19.
“I hope that the rewarding stories about our winners that we hear today will inspire more people and families to consider fostering in Kent.”
Paul and Laura Calder from Herne Bay have been fostering for 8yrs and received the Outstanding Care of Children award. After having experienced a difficult childhood himself, Paul was determined to help others.
He said: “I’m passionate about what I do. I wanted to give children, who may otherwise not have had the opportunities, a safe environment where they could flourish and become great citizens. Many of the children we have fostered over the years still come back to see us and include us in their lives. I am extremely proud that I have helped to steer them in the right direction.
Image: Paul and Laura Calder
Paul and his wife have also fostered a child with complex and diverse needs whom they have cared for since they began fostering.
Paul added: “Giving him the long-term stability he needs, seeing him grow with us and celebrating even the small achievements with him is especially rewarding. For me, fostering is the ultimate job satisfaction.”
Cheryl and Andrew McGowan from Sittingbourne only began fostering in May 2019 and this year received the New Carers award. They were nominated by their social workers and their foster child who had this to say:
“The reason I want to nominate them is they are always there when I need them. They are so fun and find ways of keeping us entertained. I wouldn’t give them away, not even for a billion diamonds. If I had to describe them in 3 words it would be; kind, caring and most importantly, funny. There are so many more words, but they would take up the whole page!”
Image: Cheryl and Andy McGowan
With their grown-up birth children having left home, Cheryl decided the time was right and in May 2019 fostered siblings who she now fosters permanently.
Cheryl said: “After considering fostering for some time and then attending one of KCC’s Fostering Information Events, we signed up. We were interviewed and then matched with our foster children very quickly. It was a perfect fit. It has been so fulfilling to give them what they deserve; a loving family and home, and to watch them thrive at school and in their social groups. Seeing them so happy gives us a wonderful feeling and is so rewarding.
“To be nominated for this award was so unexpected and I was ecstatic when we won. The children have brought us so much joy and I would encourage anyone thinking of fostering to attend one of the KCC Information Events.”
To find out more about fostering and information Events or call 03000 420 002 or visit www.kentfostering.co.uk
Sue Chandler, Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services said:
“I want to express my sincere gratitude for the continuing dedication shown in supporting some of our most vulnerable children through what has been an extremely difficult time in our wider society.
“They have opened their hearts and their homes to the children and young people of Kent and demonstrated courage, resilience, flexibility, and positivity putting the welfare of our children at the heart of everything they do.
“The role of a foster carer is unique, and these awards are a reminder of the inspirational work that they do to support children through adversity providing them with a stable and permanent home and by being there to move them on to a successful independent adult life.
“Kent County Council continues to need more foster carers across Kent, and I would ask local residents to consider joining out fostering community to make a real difference to the lives of Kent children and young people.”
Stuart Collins, Director for Integrated Children’s Services said:
“The range of demands and expectations placed on foster carers is not easy, and the past 8 months have proven to be a hugely testing period for everyone involved in safeguarding children. The role of foster carers in providing a positive and stable environment, often despite their own personal situations, is testament to their dedication and professionalism.
“Foster carers have helped our children make sense of the topsy turvy world we inhabit, helping them to express how they feel about the restrictions and made sure that they were heard; providing them with space and support to develop and grow throughout the pandemic.
“Now, our normal means that through virtual platforms foster carers have facilitated our social workers and independent visitors to maintain contact with children and young people helping to keep them safe.
“The support and guidance that carers give our children gives me hope and encouragement for the future and the belief that we can work together to support the wider recovery that we will all need to be part of.”