Jane and Dave Gater, from Leigh, who have been fostering children for over 20 years, were also presented with the Outstanding Contribution Award at this year’s Children and Young People Awards at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham.
The couple were particularly noted for their work running a local support group for other foster carers, which they have done for the past 11 years, and for maintaining the support for others during the lockdown periods last year, by setting up online meetings and WhatsApp conversations.
“The group is all about giving local foster carers a chance to get together for a coffee and a chat, do social activities and training courses, and get support from social workers and from other foster carers who are in similar situations to you.”
Although grateful to receive the awards, Dave is a little uncomfortable with the national recognition.
He said: “As a foster carer you get to know lots of other fostering families and I feel like we’re no different to many of the other foster carers I know.
“There are so many people who are doing a fantastic job, often in difficult personal circumstances.
“People often say to me, ‘I couldn’t do what you do’, but I always say that most people could.
“I’m not saying that fostering is easy, it can often be very challenging, but I believe that most people are caring by nature and could do it if they set their mind to it.”
Jane and Dave were nominated for their awards by other local foster carers. A young adult, who the couple had previously fostered as a child, also wrote a letter to the judges to endorse Dave and Jane’s achievements and explain what a positive difference they had made to his life.
Although being a foster carer can involve taking a child in for a short period of time in an emergency or for just a few nights, Jane and Dave have mainly supported children and young people on a long term basis, often taking care of children for many years at a time.
They are currently caring for 3 young people, who each have some additional needs.
Dave added: “One of the best parts of being a foster carer for me is that you get the privilege of seeing children grow and develop. It’s often those sit down, quiet moment when you see how they’re progressing, moments that even a teacher or social worker might not get to appreciate.
“A lot of the children we’ve fostered over the years continue to stay in touch and we consider them part of our family.”
2021 was a successful year for Wigan borough at the Children and Young People Awards, with local fostering peer support project, Mockingbird, also winning the Biggest Impact Award.
Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Coun Jenny Bullen, said: “What an amazing achievement for the borough’s foster carers and fostering services.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of our foster carers, who do a fantastic job taking care of some of our most vulnerable children.
“A particular thank you to Dave and Jane for your many years of hard work and to everyone involved in Mockingbird; it’s wonderful that your many achievements are being recognised at a national level.”
Wigan Council is always looking for more people to train as foster carers.
To become a foster carer, you need to have a spare bedroom, be over 21, have some experience of caring for or working with children, and have a caring nature and be committed to providing a stable home.
Jane, who comes from a family of foster carers as her mum, nan, and sister have all fostered, added: “I think to be a good foster carer you need to be an understanding person and you need to be able to see strength in adversities.
“You also need to be realistic. Some people might be drawn to fostering thinking that a hug will solve a child’s problems, but sometimes the young person might not want to be hugged.
“You have to be able to take into account the circumstances that the young person might have come from and be patient and flexible with each child, but it can also be very enjoyable.
“I most enjoy seeing the impact that foster care can have on a child and the way you can work with them to help them become the best person they can be.”