Inspirational foster parents who have changed the lives of thousands of children in Essex by opening their hearts and homes have been celebrated at a special awards ceremony staged by Essex County Council.
Winners from across the county, of all ages and walks of life, received awards in six categories, including ‘Working with Special Educational Needs [SEND] children to have a good life’ which was won by dedicated foster couple Kali and Shiv Banjeet from the Maldon area.
Kali and Shiv, who have two children of their own, and are originally from Mauritius, said of their win: “It was a lovely surprise. It makes you feel good, but we are not doing this for any other purpose than enabling the children we have to lead better lives.
“We didn’t actually specify we wanted children with special educational needs, we just opened our doors to anyone.”
Now they look after two teenage girls with special needs and have been fostering for three years. “We have seen the progress they have made since they have been with us and can’t believe how far they have come along. It is so rewarding, and we are so proud of them,” she said.
They, along with over 200 people were invited to the ceremony at Billericay’s Stock Brook Country Club where they were treated to ‘afternoon tea’ style refreshments – before departing for the time-honoured school run.
Cllr McKinlay, Cabinet member for Children and Families, said: “We can’t thank these people enough for all the work they do. Becoming a foster carer is a life choice; it’s not something you close the door on at five pm every night.
“With the help of these dedicated people the lives of children who have had a tough start in life, and others with learning difficulties, are given the opportunity to reach their full potential and really shine.”
Essex County Council’s drive to find 100 new foster carers was launched during Foster Care Fortnight, in May. There are around 750 children in foster care in the county and this number has been increasing for the past two years.
In addition, the rate of children leaving care has slowed down, bringing into sharp focus the need to recruit more foster carers for children of all ages, siblings and children with disabilities.
Essex County Council offers high-quality bespoke local training for foster parents, while support groups provide an opportunity for carers and their children to meet and talk to others in a similar situation and many go on to make long-term friendships.
Foster carers are needed on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements and they can be single, married, from a same sex family or retired.
Find out about some of the children you could help, call 0800 801 530, visit www.essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering.