Knockloughrim couple named Foster Carers of the Year
An inspirational couple from Knockloughrim who have fostered over 200 children, many with special needs, have been named Northern Ireland's Foster Carers of the Year 2012.
Irene and Andrew McKay received the award from the Fostering Network Northern Ireland during a special ceremony hosted by the Lord Mayor of Belfast at City Hall this afternoon (Monday 14 May).
The couple have been honoured in recognition of the dedication and commitment they have shown to more than 240 children over the last 18 years, many of whom have had severe learning and physical disabilities.
They were nominated by their social worker Janet Doyle, from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, who described them as “an example of excellence in fostering” who have provided “the highest standard of care” to each and every child.
Irene McKay said: “I am elated to receive the award. It has been a pleasure to look after the youngsters over the years and they have given us so much joy. I can only hope we’ve given something back to them.
“Over the last 18 years of fostering we have seen young people come into our home and we hope that they leave better for the experience. I can only recommend that others think about becoming foster carers and making a real difference to the community.”
May Johnston from Belfast, was announced as the runner up for her tireless work looking after her three grandchildren, who are no longer able to live with their own parents.
Thanks to her selfless care and commitment the children have gone on to thrive after a very challenging and emotional time for the whole family.
In addition, eight ‘Foster Carers of Distinction’ were also recognised for going the extra mile in the care they have provided to some of Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable children:
• Jennifer Burtonwood from Carrickfergus, County Antrim
• Orla McGrory from Belfast
• Laura Moreland and Gerard Comerford from Belfast
• Bronagh and Philip Orr from Glengormley, County Antrim
• Maureen and Tommy Walker from Antrim, County Antrim
Margaret Kelly, director of the Fostering Network Northern Ireland, said: “We were deeply impressed and moved by the dedication of all those carers nominated, and are proud to help celebrate and promote the fantastic work they do.
“While foster carers are ordinary people, they provide children with extraordinary love, care and commitment. We hope the stories of all today’s winners will inspire many others to come forward and find out more about fostering.”
The Foster Carer of the Year Awards mark the launch of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from today through to Sunday 27 May.
The annual campaign, run by Fostering Network, is this year highlighting the urgent need for 100 new foster families across Northern Ireland to provide children with long-term homes.
For more information about fostering visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk
Notes to editors
1. On any one day there are more than 1,800 children living with foster families across Northern Ireland.
2. Foster Care Fortnight, the Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise awareness of fostering and the need for more foster carers, runs from Monday 14 to Sunday 27 May 2012. Download our campaign press pack.
3. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading charity for all those involved in foster care. It exists to make life better for fostered children and the families that care for them.