A foster carer from Ulverston, who gave up her job to keep her mum's foster family together, was named ‘Foster Carer of the Year’ at the Cumbria Children in Care Council Awards 2020 which took place on Saturday (November 28).
Stephanie Lane, 35, has been part of a fostering family, alongside her mum Janet, since she was 11 years old. When her mum, who was a long-term foster carer for three children, passed away following a short illness last September her daughter Stephanie didn’t hesitate to step forward and train as a carer so she could keep the children together in the home they’d always known.
Stephanie said: “Growing up as part of a fostering family it always seemed a natural progression for me to become a foster carer myself one day. I’d always said to mum that ‘I will carry on where you leave off when I need to’.
“When we first found out mum was ill, even though at first it looked like there would be a positive outcome, we decided I should start the approval process to become a fully approved carer. I never had to give it a second thought; I was happy to give up my work to be here for the children. We’ve always lived together so it meant the dynamics of the household would not change for the kids - they had to come first.
“Mum cared long-term for two teenaged siblings and also a little boy with additional needs and they had all been with her since they were tiny - all they’d really ever known was mum. It was a no brainer for me to take over where mum left off.”
She added that winning the award was a lovely surprise after what has been a particularly difficult year for the whole family: “It was a massive surprise to win the award I felt really humbled when I found out. I feel like I am still the ‘new girl’ as I have only fostered for 14 months but I have been supporting mum since she started fostering over 20 years ago. For me fostering is not a job, it’s an honour and a privilege to look after the children, they are the real stars.”
Stephanie was nominated for the prestigious Foster Carer of the Year Award, which is voted for by members of Cumbria’s Children in Care Council, by social worker Linda Vickers, who said: “Stephanie is a loving, kind and fun foster carer who is also a single mum. She has allowed a foster family to remain a family, remain in their community, remain in their schools, remain with their friends, remain in contact with their extended families. She has also supported them through their grief and loss of their foster mum they have known for years…she did all this while dealing with her own grief and loss of her mum.”
This is the seventh 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 over 200 nominations across 10 award categories, with the Children in Care Council members judging the nominations and deciding who the winners were.
In line with Covid-19 restrictions the event this year was held virtually and 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, Executive Director of People John Readman and Chief Executive Katherine Fairclough.
Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “Our annual CiCC Awards celebrateour young people’s achievements, and from hearing the nominations it’s clear that they are doing great things - whether that’s succeeding academically or playing a role in their communities during a particularly challenging year for all of us.
“We also got to celebrate and recognise the huge contribution made by our foster carers, like our Foster Carer of the Year Stephanie. The work which all of our carers do to support children and young people is priceless.”
For more information about fostering with Cumbria County Council please visit www.cumbria.gov.uk/fostering