Foster carers and staff from across the county have been recognised for their exceptional contribution to the lives of the children they care for in their homes at the Kent Fostering Foster Carer Awards 2021.
The event was held at Detling Showground on 13th October 2021 and was hosted by Kent County Council (KCC) Corporate Director of Children, Young People and Education, Matt Dunkley and Assistant Director of Corporate Parenting, Caroline Smith.
Children, social workers, and other foster carers put forward a record number of 204 nominations to a panel of judges who presented a total of 41 awards, including outstanding care of children, care of disabled children, keeping brothers and sisters 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 have been looking after Kent’s children for more than 30 years.
Each winner received a trophy, presented by Ann Allen MBE, former Chairman of KCC who has very sadly since passed away.
Certificates were also presented by Sue Chandler, KCC Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, and a hamper presented by Heads of Fostering Mark Vening and Nicola Anthony.
In her opening speech, Caroline Smith expressed her gratitude to all involved in fostering: “Today is about celebrating the achievements of foster carers and KCC staff for their outstanding care of our children and young people in care. For all of us, this last year and a half has probably been the most difficult times of our adult lives.
“During this time foster carers and staff have cared for our children to make them feel safe. You have educated them, nursed and cared for them but above all loved and held them at the centre of your families. For this we cannot thank you enough.”
Justin and Lisa Dumigan were awarded The Head of Fostering Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Service: “Lisa and I were really honoured to have been both nominated for and win the Head of Fostering Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Service award.
“Although we do try to do the best job we can in our role, we are very aware that so do all the other foster carers within Kent Fostering. We were genuinely shocked when our names were called, and our story told and going up on stage to collect our award was very surreal.
“Although as foster carers, we don’t do it for awards and praise, it is lovely to get such thoughtful recognition, especially given the past 18 months or so which have been a challenge for everybody.
“We genuinely feel everything we do should be done to the best of our abilities and the children in our care deserve the very best we are able to give them. We heard some really inspiring stories during the award presentations and feel so proud to be part of a team of people that make such a huge difference to the outcomes for the young people in our communities. Being completely honest we felt our efforts pale in comparison to some of the stories we heard!
“The effort that the team had put into the awards made it feel very prestigious. Kent Fostering really do have some amazing foster carers and also some very special social workers that make up an Awesome team.”
Andy and Evelyn Powell were winners of the Disabled Children Fostering Resilience Award:
“The Foster Carer Appreciation Awards recognised many areas of talent and highlighted the amazing work fosters carers are doing daily and winning an award of resilience feels so special to our family.
“During the event we heard so many emotive stories, where foster carers have truly made a difference, it was lovely to be a part of this. Over the last year we have been working collaboratively with many medical professionals from different disciplines in order to meet the needs of the children in our care.
“We are privileged to have access to a wonderful supportive fostering social worker and a great team with Kent Fostering to guide us through challenging experiences. Our own children are also an enormous part of our success. They have formed positive relationships and welcomed children into their home and made every effort to help them feel part of our family.
“Resilience on a personal level means having the ability to thrive in immensely difficult circumstances. We have been caring for a child who has experienced trauma and has significant medical needs, and our success is really about the progress he has made in the last year, together with his determination to overcome the psychological, physical, and emotional barriers.
“We are deeply honoured to accept this resilience award and will continue to help and support all those children and young adults in our care.”
The South Kent Resilience Award was awarded to Becky and Dan Doust: “The appreciation awards ceremony yesterday was amazing! We were happy to be a part of the event and celebrate fellow foster carers achievements and recognition for all they have done, especially through such challenging times.
“We were even happier when we unexpectedly won the resilience award. We were nominated to win this award by our child’s social worker. Her words about the work that we did with this child, were humbling to hear.
It wasn’t until we read this nomination that we truly recognised ourselves what a journey we had been on. It left us feeling extremely emotional. We feel extremely privileged to win this award and want to thank everyone involved from the bottom of our hearts.”
Sue Chandler, KCC Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services said: “I am extremely grateful for all our wonderful foster carers in Kent, and it was a pleasure to attend the awards to meet them and hear their stories.
“As corporate parents we are committed to providing the highest standard of care to our looked after children. KCC entrusts some of the county’s most vulnerable children to our exceptional foster carers in the knowledge that they will receive a safe, secure, and stable home with care and affection for as long as they need it.
“The awards were a wonderful celebration of how much we value their dedication and the huge contribution they make to our children particularly during the recent exceptional challenges resulting from the pandemic.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Ann Allen who worked tirelessly and selflessly as a corporate parent on behalf of Kent’s most vulnerable children for many years and will be sorely missed by us all.
Fostering is open to more people than you may think. Anyone considering fostering can get in touch to find out more about the various types of fostering and the extensive support available.
To find out more about fostering and our Information Events or call 03000 420 002 or visit www.kentfostering.co.uk