The leading foster care charity in Northern Ireland, Fostering Network, has awarded this year’s prestigious Foster Carer of the Year Award to inspirational couple Margaret and Jackie Mc Carragher who have opened their home to more than 50 children over the last 25 years.
The couple from Dromore in County Down, who foster for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, were presented with their award by Michelle McIlveen MLA who hosted the annual event in the Great Hall in the NI Assembly.
Margaret and Jackie were nominated by their daughter Nichola, who in a powerful and moving nomination said: “The love, care and dedication my parents have shown to over 50 children has made such a different to so many children that I felt they deserved recognition and I am delighted they have been presented with this Award. I have personally been so inspired that I now also foster and I can always count on my Mum and Dad to support me in this role too.
“Many of the children Mum and Dad have fostered have remained part of our family even though they are now adults and Mum still always has three foster children at home with her. Mum’s house is always busy and a lovely place to be, full of love. I am so proud of them, my parents are one in a million.”
Commenting on her award, foster carer Margaret said: "Looking after and getting to know the children who have come in and out of our lives over the years has been a pleasure. We feel privileged to be able to make a difference, no matter how small, in their lives. Our reward is seeing them go out into the world as confident happy young people”.
“We feel very honoured to foster and would encourage anyone with the time and space in their home and their life to consider taking on this most rewarding role.”
Barnardo’s foster carers Avril and Brian Kenwell from Ballynahinch are this year’s runners up. They were nominated by their foster daughter, Elaine, who said “Right from the start I felt part of their family, they made me feel special from the first day I moved in. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I would have ended up. Knowing them has turned my whole life around.”
Margaret Kelly, director of the Fostering Network, commented, “Margaret and Jackie are a remarkable couple and a wonderful example of the very best in fostering. They are caring and aspirational for the children in their care, as are we at the Fostering Network for all children and young people in care.
“In this, the eight year of the Awards, we received more nominations than ever and deciding from all the amazing nominations gets more difficult each year. The legacy our winners have passed on to their birth families and their fostering families is incalculable. Northern Ireland still needs an additional 200 foster carers this year to meet the needs of children and young people and that trend will continue to increase. We hope that Margaret and Jackie’s story will inspire many others to come forward as foster carers. “
Michelle McIlveen MLA who hosted the awards said: “I am delighted to show my support for the Fostering Network and foster carers by hosting these awards. As a society we are indebted to our foster carers who give of their time and their love every day. It is an honour to be part of this inspiring evening.”
The awards are part of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from Monday 12 to Sunday 25 May. The annual campaign, run by Fostering Network, is highlighting the urgent need for 200 more foster families across Northern Ireland.
For media enquiries contact the Fostering Network media team on 020 7620 6425 or firstname.lastname@example.org Individual stories are available for all the award recipients.
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Notes to Editors
1. Jackilene Weatherup, Celine McBride and Judith and Robin Tate were recognised as foster carers of distinction.
2. The Kinship Foster Carer Special Recognition Award 2014, awarded to foster carers who foster members of their wider family , went to Betty McGill who has been caring for her 11 year old niece for the last five years. Thomas and Julie Calvert, George Wilson Clarke and Gerard and Kathleen Wylie were recognised as kinship carers of distinction.
3. In support of Foster Care Fortnight, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “I wholeheartedly support Foster Care Fortnight which provides an opportunity to attract more foster carers and to highlight the commitment of existing foster and kinship carers in Northern Ireland.
"I am pleased that recent figures from a poll, carried out by the Fostering Network, show that more people are likely to foster in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK. Foster carers provide an invaluable service to some of the most vulnerable children.
“We need more foster carers. I would urge anyone who has been thinking about fostering to take the next step and apply to become a foster carer by contacting your local Health and Social Care Trust or an independent fostering agency. By sharing your home and your lives with children and young people, many of whom who have experienced great disruption in their lives, you can provide much needed stability and permanence.”
4. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading charity for all those involved in foster care, and exists to make life better for fostered children and the families that look after them.