Three foster carers who have looked after vulnerable children for a combined seventy years were recognised at Southwark’s annual Civic Awards.
Margaret and Tom Bentham became foster carers in March 1984, and retired in February 2015. In their 31 years as foster carers they cared for many children including one who had suffered a severe head injury, and needed support to recover physically and emotionally. Margaret and Tom still keep in touch with many of the children they supported, and their families.
In a statement, Margaret and Tom said: “It brought tears to my eyes to receive this award. It was a big decision to retire as it has been such a huge part of our lives. My own children got so much out of it as well, seeing children from different backgrounds taught them a lot.
“We’ve looked after lots of children with complex medical needs and I feel that we have given them a chance at life by making them feel confident and special.
“We always celebrate their achievements and those moments stay with you forever. Fostering is challenging but it has given us so many happy memories. ”
Another awardee, Dave Rackstraw, became a foster carer in 1979, as reported by the News this week.
He started fostering with his wife Pam, who sadly passed away in 2012. After her death, Dave continued to foster a sixteen-year-old girl with learning difficulties.
Dave said: “I was shocked when I got the letter to say I’d won the award, I was gobsmacked but I was pleased as it’s quite a prestigious award.
“My wife and I have always loved children and we had been looking after children for a number of years before we became foster carers.
“When my wife passed away I became single foster carer. I had two girls with me and I thought they would be moved on but they both wanted to stay with me which I was really pleased about.
“The girl I’ve got with me now is part of the family; my grand-children are her cousins! All the kids we look after become part of the family and when you look back it’s great to see how you’ve given that child a chance.
“One woman recently asked me if I would be her child’s Grandad- it’s really great to see the child you’ve looked after get a good job, a partner and do well for themselves.
“Some children have been through really terrible things and it can be hard rebuilding their confidence but it’s rewarding when you see them start blossoming. Happy memories.”
The supervising social worker for all three foster carers, Geraldine Doyle, said: “The unconditional love and support Margaret and Tom provided for the children in their care enabled the children to begin to trust again and be open to being loved.
“They were so giving; they always put the children in their care first and encouraged families to have contact on Christmas Day.
“They thoroughly deserve this award because of the positive difference they made to many children and young people’s lives.”
She said Dave had a ‘big heart’, and is a ‘strong advocate’ to ensure the girl in his care gets the support she needs: “Dave goes above and beyond to help her prepare for the future and helping her apply to colleges.
“Dave also continues to support care leavers, he also helped pay for one care leavers wedding and gave her away.
“Dave deserves his Southwark Civic Award 2018 because of the outstanding love and support he has provided for children and young people.”
Councillor Jasmine Ali, cabinet member for children, schools and adult care, said: “Foster carers are often unsung heroes who make a huge impact in the lives of the young people they care for.
“It is inspiring to hear how Dave, Margaret and Tom have all gone above and beyond for the children in their care and these awards are thoroughly deserved.
“Equally the experience of these dedicated foster carers and their children demonstrates the immense reward that opening your home and your hearts to children can bring.
“As a proud adoptive mum who fostered one of my children to adopt, I would recommend it to anyone thinking about fostering.”
If you have a spare room and are interested in finding out more please call 0800 952 0707 or email Southwark Council.
Southwark residents fostering Southwark children get a 100 per cent discount on their Council Tax as well as additional allowances for birthdays, festivities, holiday and technology purchases.