Recognition for decades of caring

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Rosemary Mazzone is a recently retired foster carer from Ramsey on the Isle of Man who was awarded the British Empire Medal last year for services to youth and the community and gained the accolade of the Pride in Mann Community Champion award in 2015.

Here Rosemary tells us about her dedication to her community, the children she looked after and her advice for prospective foster carers.

I was completely in shock when I was nominated and won the Pride of Mann award. I was absolutely made up that the public voted for me. I have never done fostering for glory or recognition so it came completely out of the blue. Then to be nominated for a British Empire Medal was gob smacking. I just couldn't believe it. It was even more special because my family were not aware either so it was a great surprise that we could all celebrate together. I was extremely proud when the citation was read aloud especially with all my loved ones present.

I started in 1992 when my youngest child was five. I have lost count how many children I’ve looked after. It must be over 40 children, short term and long term. I have loved seeing the children grow up and enjoy successful lives while continuing to stay in contact with my family and I. My son recently got married and some of the children we have fostered were invited and attended as part of the family.

One of the proudest moments of my time fostering was when one of my fostered children told me if it hadn't been for me she thought she would be in prison. The girl who told me this came from a really unstable family environment and she has gone on to have children herself and she is an exceptional mother. She has implemented the environment I created with her in to her home life. I am god mother to her and both of her children.

My biggest challenge would have been when a foster children disrupted one of my own children's home life so much that after two years in my care we worked with social services to find him an alternative foster home. This was not a decision that was taken lightly and I had done everything I could possibly do. I still keep in touch with him till this day.

During the whole time I was fostering there was never a time when I wanted to stop, even when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having breast cancer never got in the way of me fostering - until i retired recently, I had fostered continuously even throughout treatment. Family and life doesn't stop when people face challenges. I have always led a healthy mobile active life while living with breast cancer. My family and husband have supported me fully through everything and I couldn't have asked for more.

I like to keep myself busy and active so having lots of different hobbies and interests that I love to be involved with has always been a part of my life. I'm heavily involved with the Northern Athletic Club and Ramsey Youth Club, the Bra Dash and the school. I like to be part of the community so Bra Dash still keeps me connected and it’s obviously a cause close to my heart.

All my children have been involved in athletics as well as my foster children so this something we all did together. I have been a part of the club for over 40 years. I wouldn't say I am a specialist at any but I do enjoy taking part in the combined throwing events. My children always get frustrated with me when I make them help me organise the trophies for the presentation each year...they enjoy it really.

I would definitely recommend fostering. I grew up with only a dad and sister as my mum died when i was 11 but my dad was a really amazing single parent. My kids grew up with both my husband and I and even though I had six children of my own, I knew there were children who were not so fortunate and needed the support. I always wanted to give back and fostering was something that I felt I would be able to make a difference doing. My husband fully supported me and the foster children throughout the years and he has been my rock.

The top tips I would give to anyone hoping to foster care is to:

  • Provide a structured, caring and stable environment for the children to live in and treat them the same as you treat your own children.
  • Understand that on most occasions they will have had a difficult background that you may not be fully aware of and that their behaviour may demonstrate this. Be patient. This isn't a reflection on your care it’s more about changing their behaviours through positive influence.
  • Talk to the children, build their trust and get to know them.