William and Valerie Newell from Annalong were named Foster Carers of the Year in Northern Ireland at the weekend after 13 years during which they have looked after many babies, sibling groups and children with complex needs as well as bringing up three children of their own.
The couple were nominated by two of their foster children who described them as “loving, kind, amazing and special people”.
The children’s heartfelt handwritten nomination, complete with drawings, details William and Valerie’s incredible efforts for the children they care for, including how they record every feed, sleep and first smile for the babies they foster.
One of the couple’s foster children who made the nomination said: “My brother and I lived with six foster families before we came to live with Valerie and William, but this is where we are staying.
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“We are so happy and safe here. They are always there to help and guide me and get me the support I need.
“This is the most brilliant place a child could grow up and have a brilliant life. They mean the world to us and any child lucky enough to live here would be happy and healthy like I am now.”
William and Valerie, who got involved in fostering through family links, were given the accolade from The Fostering Network at Northern Ireland’s 2017 Foster Carer of the Year Awards, on Saturday at the Hilton Hotel in Belfast.
At the ceremony lifetime achievement awards were given to Gerard and Marion Lennon from Downpatrick, and Rita and Robert Cranston from Ballinamallard.
Over 2,200 children live with over 2,000 foster families across NI each day.