AN inspirational woman from Annaclone near Banbridge, who has been fostering children for more than 15 years, has been named Foster Carer of the Year 2013.
Josephine McClelland, who fosters together with her husband Sean, received the award from the Fostering Network at a special ceremony hosted by Michelle McIlveen MLA in the Great Hall of the Northern Ireland Assembly last night (Friday 17 May).
Josephine, who won the award for her dedication and commitment to the 20 children she has fostered over the last 15 years, was nominated by Angela Burns, a young women she has looked after for the last five years.
In a powerful and moving nomination, Angela, 16, said: “Words alone are not enough to explain all that Josephine has done for me. She has always stood by my side, through my achievements and failures, praising and comforting me. She has changed my life.
“Josephine and Sean have always made me feel like a part of their family, especially when I’ve felt alone or worthless. Now I feel like someone again. They have given me the hope and confidence I need to develop into a happy young woman.”
Commenting on winning the award, Josephine said: “It is a privilege and honour to be recognised in this way, especially by Angela. We have a great relationship with her. I also feel very humble as I do not consider myself to be special and there are so many foster carers out there who also do a great job.
“We try to make all the children we look after really feel a part of the family, to have an open and honest relationship with them, and provide lots of positive encouragement and support. Fostering is hard work, but the time and effort really pays off and it is the most rewarding job I’ve ever done.”
Margaret Kelly, director of the Fostering Network Northern Ireland, said: “Josephine and her husband Sean fully deserve this award and recognition. Angela’s account of the difference they have made to her life is testament to the passion, commitment and unconditional love they offer to all the children they have looked after.
“Foster carers do an incredible job, but at least 200 more are urgently needed across Northern Ireland to provide children with a loving and stable home. We hope Josephine, Sean and Angela are an inspiration to people across the country to take that step and put themselves forward to foster.”
The awards are part of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from Monday 13 to Sunday 26 May. The annual campaign, run by Fostering Network, is highlighting the urgent need for more foster families across Northern Ireland.
For more information about fostering visit www.couldyoufoster.org.uk