Fostering milestones honoured at celebration event
One of our longest ever serving foster carers in Kirklees, along with others who have devoted their lives to fostering, were honoured at a celebration event this week (17 May).
Who are the foster carers?
Dewsbury-based Brenda Whitworth has been a foster carer for 33 years. She began fostering with her husband, Ian, in 1985, until he sadly passed away in 2010. Together they’d welcomed dozens of children of varying ages and ability levels into their home on a long and short-term basis and adopted two. Since Ian’s death, Brenda has continued to foster and looks after her 30-year-old adoptive son, Liam, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Now aged 67 and a grandmother of five, Brenda says she has no intention of stepping back from what she loves doing best.
What happened at the event?
At the celebration event, 24 local foster carers who have been in the profession for 10 or more years, were served afternoon tea. Each of them was presented with an award in honour of their long-term service, which has helped transform the lives of hundreds of vulnerable children.
The event, which took place at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield, was held during the first week of Foster Care Fortnight (14-27 May), an annual campaign run by The Fostering Network.
More about becoming a foster carer?
With an estimated 7,000 new foster carers needed across the UK in the next 12 months, it is hoped that the campaign will help raise awareness about the role and encourage more people to come forward. One of the themes for this year is ‘foster care transforms lives’ and aims to highlight how fostering transforms the lives of vulnerable young people, as well as those of foster carers and their families.
With more than three decades in the profession, Brenda says that fostering has changed her life for the better, and was even a source of solace following the death of her husband. Brenda explains:
“My love of children was always in me even before I had my own. If there was a mum with a pushchair I’d always make a beeline for them. We went into fostering as a family and it was definitely a learning curve for all of us. But over time you learn that with every problem there’s a solution and any issues are usually short-lived. You gain new skills along the way and get a real sense of achievement in helping a child who is having to deal with so much trauma in their life.”
Some might assume that, having welcomed so many children into her home over the years, Brenda would be looking forward to a well-earned retirement. But Brenda says that fostering has become a way of life and she plans to continue opening her home to vulnerable children.
“So many people have asked me when I’ll retire but I have no intention of doing so. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. There are so many children out there in need of a stable, happy home life and I want to be able to help. I love having a full house so while I’m still fit enough I’d like to carry on. I don’t see myself or what I do as special. I’m just doing what I enjoy doing.”
Steve Comb, who is Head of Corporate Parenting at Kirklees Council, added:
“As well as providing a fun afternoon for everyone, this event has been about saying a big thank you to all our foster carers who have been doing the job for more than 10 years, which is a fantastic achievement. Between them they have amassed a staggering 400 years of foster care and have helped many hundreds of vulnerable children.
“Most children in care have experienced some level of neglect or abuse and we need Kirklees carers to care for our Kirklees children. Without local foster carers these children could be placed away from their local area, away everything they know, which in itself can be traumatic for them. Right now we need foster families who can look after children on a long and short-term basis. In particular there’s a shortage of foster carers for children over 10 years old and sibling groups.
“Each child brings their own life experience and challenges, however the rewards for carers in terms of impact on young lives and feedback from children are immense. But whatever their age or ability children can overcome almost anything if they know they have someone they can rely on.”
How can I help?
If you think you can help our children get the best possible start in life, please either come along to our drop-in information event at the John Smith’s Stadium (Stadium Way, Huddersfield, HD1 6PG) on Thursday 24 May between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, where you can talk to experienced foster carers.
Alternatively you can contact our fostering team on Tel: 0800 389 0086 or visit the Kirklees fostering website to find out more.