Inspirational Draperstown couple named Northern Ireland Foster Carers of the Year as Foster Care Fortnight begins

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Media release

A couple from a farming community in Draperstown have been named 2018’s Foster Carers of the Year in Northern Ireland.

Patricia and Colm Gray have been fostering for more than a decade for the Northern Trust. 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.

The couple were awarded the accolade by The Fostering Network at Northern Ireland’s Foster Carer of the Year Awards 2018, on Saturday 12 May at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast.

Unusually 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 and young people 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.’

Another social worker said: ‘The couple provide a warm, caring and loving home which enables children and young people to thrive and develop. All the children who live there are thriving.’

Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, said: It was a real pleasure to meet Patricia and Colm and hear about the real difference they are marking to children’s lives. Their commitment and determination to support children in foster care is inspirational.

‘They are warm and share their lives, family and their home with all the children and young people they have fostered over the last 11 years.’

The Foster Carer of the Year Awards evening took place at the start of The Fostering Network’s Foster Care FortnightTM. This annual campaign celebrates the contribution of the fantastic work of the 2,100 foster and kinship foster families in Northern Ireland as well as shining a spotlight on the need for 200 additional foster families this year.

Northern Ireland continues to need more people to consider fostering. Increased numbers of foster carers will allow fostering services to better meet the needs of a particular child and have a better chance of finding the right home for each child, first time.

People who think they have the relevant skills to be able to look after fostered children, enjoy a challenge and have a spare room can find out more at

Full list of award winners:

Foster Carer of the Year

Patricia and Colm Gray – Northern Trust (Draperstown)

Kinship Carer of the Year
Chelsea Noble & Patryk 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 Carer 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)


For media enquiries or interviews please contact Emma McAleer on 028 9070 5056 or 07501 490 923 or email

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Notes to editors

1. Over 2,200 children live with over 2,100 foster families across Northern Ireland each day. The Fostering Network estimates that at least 200 new foster families are needed across Northern Ireland in 2018 alone. In particular there’s a real need to find foster carers for teenagers and sibling groups.


2. The Fostering Network is Northern Ireland’s leading fostering charity. We are passionate about the difference foster care makes to children and young people. Transforming children’s lives is at the heart of everything we do.

3. The Foster Carer of the Year Awards take place during Foster Care Fortnight. Foster Care Fortnight™ is The Fostering Network's annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and to show how foster care transforms lives. It is also the UK's biggest foster carer recruitment campaign. Foster Care Fortnight 2018 is taking place from Monday 14 to Sunday 27 May.