“There will be no child in my house ever given up on” – Glen Mahon, foster carer.
A steadfast determination to care is one of the reasons why Glen and Regina Mahon from Downpatrick, County Down, who have been fostering for 15 years, were awarded The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland’s 2016 Foster Carer of the Year Award, sponsored by The Hilton, on Friday 20 May at the Hilton Hotel, Belfast.
The award selection panel commented on the steadfastness, generosity and big-heartedness of the Mahons. They were particularly impressed by the fact that when the youngest child in their care was in hospital in Birmingham for major heart surgery, resulting in a 16 week stay, Glen moved with him to Birmingham, sitting alongside him all day and night. The couple currently foster five boys, including two sets of siblings with a range of complex needs.
Glen and Regina’s son and his wife have been so inspired by them that they are carrying on the family tradition and are now registered foster carers.
Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, said of the Mahons: “Sometimes you hear about people, people who quietly go about their business helping others, living their lives, and bringing joy to those they come into contact with. The Mahons are unassuming people but they are absolutely determined to provide the best possible life they can for the children they look after. .
“You can’t do what the Mahons have done so many years and then have your birth children follow you into it, without truly loving the children you look after. We thank them for their enormous contribution to our society, and most importantly, to each of the children they care for.”
Una Carragher, Manager of HSC Regional Adoption and Fostering Service commented, “The Foster Carer of the Year Awards are an opportunity to thank all foster carers for the care and attention they give to each child and young person. By providing a safe nurturing environment children and young people are supported to build resilience, encouraged and helped to meet their potential, their achievements celebrated and they are prepared for adulthood to take their place in society.”
Also on the night, Shirley and Colin Hall from Larne, County Antrim, were awarded the Kinship Foster Carers of the Year Award. The couple have three birth children and they have raised two nephews and a niece. When the panel met Shirley they were really impressed with her determination to make sure all three children stayed within their wider birth family. This determination carried Shirley and Colin through some challenging and difficult times but they never gave up.
They were nominated by Lauren, Karl, and Josh who they have looked after throughout their childhood. Lauren commented “Shirley and Colin have provided a safe and caring environment for me and brothers over the years. They took all three of us into their family home and treated us like their own children. Due to Shirley and Colin my brother Karl is at University and I am working on attending university this year. This would not have been possible without them. We try to tell them all the time how much we appreciate what they have done but Shirley always say it was nothing. But it would be great if they won this award to show what a special couple they are.”
Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, said: “The Halls have brought opportunity and the chance to flourish, to their nieces and nephews. They exemplify what it means to be family. They are worthy winners of our Kinship Carer of the Year Award.”
If you think you might have the skills and qualities to foster, find your local fostering service by visiting thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/could-you-foster
Also awarded on the night:
Foster carer of Distinction – Charlotte Allen
Foster carers of Distinction – Brian and Barbara Caldwell
Foster carer of Distinction – Yvonne Strange
Foster carers of Distinction – Debbie and Andy Caldwell
Foster carer of Distinction – Pauline Hanratty
Foster carer of Distinction – Orla McGrory
Foster carer of Distinction – Jeannie James
Foster carer of Distinction – Gail Comerford
Foster carers of Distinction – William and Adele Costello
Kinship carer of Distinction – Geraldine Doherty
Kinship carers of Distinction – Ann and John McHale