A Fenland foster carer has been honoured after offering teenagers a loving and stable home for almost 30 years.
Sheila Clarke, who retired from fostering earlier this year, was one of 28 carers who received an award at the annual Cambridgeshire County Council’s Foster Carer Awards Ceremony.
Sheila (75) is modest about her work though and said she has actually got more from the teenagers she cared for.
“I know I’ve done a lot for fostering,” she said, “but they’ve given me so much more back. It’s like bringing up your own family; I was a mother to them.”
Sheila, who worked primarily with complex and challenging teenagers, came into fostering later in life after working in children’s homes and said it is a good career.
“It’s a 24/7 job and sometimes it’s not so easy, but it’s worth it.”
She has no idea how many children she has looked after over the years and has done short-term, long-term and respite placements.
Sheila is still in touch with many of them and some still come to visit. She enjoys the catch-up and it is lovely for her to see them succeeding in their own lives.
She has four children of her own and said her family has always been very supportive. Her children were happy to get involved and would often come along on days out, giving the teenagers a taste of a proper family environment.
The award ceremony, which was held at Elme Hall Hotel in Wisbech, celebrates the local authority’s foster carers and is an opportunity for foster carers, their own children and the children they foster to get together and enjoy past and present achievements.
This year’s awards were presented by the County Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, Cllr David Brown, who said: “This occasion is always very special as it gives me an opportunity to say a personal thank you to our foster carers and show them how highly valued they are.
“They really do change the lives of children and young people giving them stability and support in difficult times.”
Sheila’s supervising social worker Lisa Hughes said at the ceremony: “With the support of her family Sheila has devoted the last 28 years to fostering and meeting the needs of looked after children.
“By nature Sheila is a selfless person and has made many personal sacrifices over the years to prioritise the needs of young people.
“Sheila successfully moved her last young person onto semi-independence in June 2013 before making the difficult decision to retire.
“It’s been a great pleasure working with Sheila over the past four years and on behalf on the fostering service I would like to thank Sheila and her family for her years of dedication and commitment.”