Maryport’s Wendy and Lee Towers, who have fostered for Cumbria County Council for nearly eight years, won the ‘Foster Carers of the Year’ Award on Saturday (5 October) at the Children in Care Council (CiCC) Awards at Barrow’s Furness Academy.
After receiving the award, Wendy said: “It means so much to us to win this award because it’s the children in care who choose the winners. But seeing the children we care for happy, settled and doing so well is the real reward for us.”
The couple, who have seven children of their own and foster babies and younger children, were nominated by their daughter Shelby, 19, who said: “They always go above and beyond, the love they provide makes such a difference in the lives of children who have not had the best start to life.”
This year’s event, which was attended by 240 children, young people, foster carers, social workers, teachers and county councillors, was the sixth consecutive year of the ‘Celebrating Us’ CiCC Awards which celebrate the achievements of children and young people who are looked after, care leavers and the people who support them.
The event was the culmination of months of hard work which saw 200 nominations for 150 people, across seven categories, and the Children in Care Council members played a key role in organising the awards; from judging the nominations and deciding who the winners were, to presenting on the day and choosing the fun activities – it was very much their day.
The ceremony was hosted by members of the Children in Care Council, with awards presented by Cumbria County Councillors Anne Burns, Christine Bowditch and Sue Sanderson alongside Assistant Director of Children’s Services Lynn Berryman and council Chief Executive Katherine Fairclough.
Other winners who attended the awards were Cumbrian care leavers 23-year-old Melissa Heslop of Carlisle who won the Community Volunteering Award and 18-year-old Liam Murphy from Barrow who took home the Inspirational Young Person (over 18) Award.
Melissa is an active member of the Care Leavers Forum who devotes much of her spare time to working for the CiCC and helping at their events. She said: “Even being nominated for this award is great because it means I am helping and making a difference.”
Liam is a key member of the Children in Care Council who has been instrumental in making sure the voices of young people in care are heard. He’s also an incredibly talented musician studying music at college, who still finds time to do voluntary work for a local charity each week.
Liam has lived with his foster carer Alex Finnie since he was 10. Liam said of Alex: “She’s always here for me and I couldn’t ask for a more amazing carer.”
Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “This awards event was originally the idea of the Children in Care Council and each year the event has got better and better. The awards celebrate the successes of children and young people in care, or leaving care, and the staff and carers that support them, including our fabulous foster carers, social care staff, volunteers, teachers and so many more. I really look forward to this annual event because it’s so special to be able to get together and recognise some really fabulous achievements over the last year.”
This year’s awards was supported by a host of local businesses including James Cropper Plc, Sealy UK, BAE Systems Marine Ltd, Thomas Armstrong (Construction) Ltd, Jacobs Field Services Limited and Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire, who kindly contributed towards some of the gifts and prizes on the day.
For more information about fostering with Cumbria County Council visit www.cumbria.gov.uk/fostering