Celebration of Wigan’s foster carers
Some of the borough’s longest serving foster carers were acknowledged at a special event in Hindley, receiving awards marking five, ten, and 15 years of service.
Other well-deserving local carers were surprised with gifts to thank them for achievements over the past year as part of the nationally recognised fortnight, which runs May 15-28.
Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Coun Jenny Bullen, said: “Foster care fortnight is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our amazing foster carers.
“I’d like to thank each and every one of them for everything they do, all day, every day, for children in the borough, they make a phenomenal difference.”
Julie Bannister and husband Shaun were recognised for 15 years of fostering and have fostered over 100 children.
Julie said: “It doesn’t feel like it’s been 15 years, it’s gone by so quickly.
“Being a foster carer is the best job I’ve ever done.
“The best part is seeing all the small steps forward the children take.
"Of course, there are setbacks sometimes, but we work with them to help them move forward again.”
Tom Kirby received the Bernie Allen Award for Outstanding Service.
This award is given out annually in memory of Bernie, who was a foster carer with Wigan Council.
Tom has cared for his four grandchildren since 2004 and was particularly acknowledged for his strength and commitment to continue fostering after his wife Andrea passed away.
Tom said: “Today is a day of mixed emotions as Andrea was our rock.
“There have been lots of highs and lows over the years, but the real highlight is seeing the four children now as young adults, they are all doing so well.
“It’s important to have events like this as foster carers do play such a vital role in the lives of young people.
"It can mean helping to keep families together, especially if you foster within the family.”
Amy Sutton was this year’s inspirational speaker at the celebration event.
Amy spoke about how a combination of foster care, Wigan Council services, schools, and local youth groups helped her to become a resilient, successful adult, with her own home and family, despite many challenges growing up.
Coun Bullen added: “Amy’s story is a fantastic example of the difference foster carers, council services and the local community can make when we all work together.
“Amy is an impressive individual and her commitment, hard work, and dedication is an inspiration to us all.”
Wigan Council also extended their support for local foster carers this week with the launch of the Mockingbird project’s third hub.
Mockingbird hubs are communities of up to ten foster families who come together and support each other through their fostering journey.
Each hub is led by an experienced foster carer and Caroline Abbott will take up the role for the new Hub Three.
Caroline said: “I’m so proud and honoured to take up this new role.
“I’ve wanted to be a foster carer since I was 16 so a few years ago when my daughter was becoming independent, I decided it was the right time.
"I just wasn’t ready not to be a mum anymore!
“The fostering community in Wigan borough is amazing and being part of Mockingbird makes me feel like I’m part of a big fostering family. We see each other through the highs and lows.
“I’m most excited about working with the young people in our hub and seeing what we can achieve for them.”
Foster carers and the council’s fostering team will be out and about across the borough with information stalls and will be happy to meet with anyone who might like to know more about joining the local fostering community.