Every year, The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland hosts the Foster Carer of the Year Awards. This superb event brings together foster carers, kinship carers and social workers a to celebrate their efforts and achievements.
Foster Carer of the Year Northern Ireland 2018
The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland’s annual Foster Carer of the Year Awards recognise and celebrate the contribution individual foster and kinship carers make towards the lives of children in foster care. This year's ceremony took place in the Hilton Hotel, Belfast on Saturday 12 May 2018.
Foster Carers of the Year 2018 - Patricia and Colm Gray
Patricia and Colm Gray have been fostering for the Northern Trust for 11 years. Alongside running a busy sheep farm and raising four children of their own, Patricia and Colm have looked after toddlers, mothers with their babies, as well as teenagers and say they simply can’t imagine doing anything else.
Patricia and Colm received three nominations - from a fellow foster carer and two social workers - all of whom highlighted the way the couple are child centred and able to bring the best out of the children in their care.
Social worker Laura Cummings said: ‘Patricia has an innate insight into reading children, recognising when something is wrong; and she can adapt her responses to the child based on how they are feeling on that day.’
Patricia and Colm have children of their own and they see them all as part of the wider Gray family. Colm’s father loves being Grandpa to 36 other children and loves showing them the wonders of life on the farm. He particularly loves watching children who have never lived in the country watching lambs being born during lambing season.
Patricia and Colm see fostering as a lifestyle. They say: 'This is who we are and the rewards outweigh any challenges.'
Kinship Carers of the Year 2018 - Chelsea Noble & Patrick Sojka
Chelsea and Patrick live in Lisburn and foster for the Belfast Trust. They were nominated by social worker Seana Hamill.
Chelsea and Patrick are both in their early 20s and have been kinship carers for Chelsea’s sister for the past two and a half years.
The couple had been saving money to move to Australia to make a new life there when they found themselves looking after a toddler. Chelsea didn’t hesitate and her employers, River Island, were supportive.
The panel were humbled by their positive attitude, their total commitment to Chelsea’s sister and their love for her and each other.
Recently, they used the money they had saved for their travels to put a deposit on a house and they now have a lovely home for the three of them and their two dogs making them as they said: 'a real family now”.
Full list of award winners:
Foster Carer of the Year: Patricia and Colm Gray – Northern Trust (Draperstown)
Kinship Carer of the Year: Chelsea Noble & Patrick Sojka – Belfast Trust (Lisburn)
Foster Carers of Distinction
- Frances Lavery – Belfast Trust (South Belfast)
- Sean & Jill Kearney – Belfast Trust (Tandragee)
- Patricia and Colm Gray – Northern Trust (Draperstown)
- Linda and Joe McLeigh – South Eastern Trust (Downpatrick)
- Helene Goodwin – Western Trust (Omagh)
- Orina and Jamie Philip – Kindercare (Portstewart)
- Mary and Daniel Maechling – Foster Care Associates (Newcastle)
Julie and Evan Jones – Action for Children (Dromore, Co Down)
Kinship Carers of Distinction
- Mark and Nadene Smith – Southern Trust (Newtownards)
- Francis Doyle – Belfast Trust (Belfast)
- Liz Courtney – Belfast Trust (Belfast)
- Casheen and David Sloan – Northern Trust (Glengormley)
If you would like more information on Foster Carer of the Year please call The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland on 02890705056.