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Foster carers honoured for work with special needs child.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Foster carers honoured for work with special needs child. thumbnailCarol and Nigel Cochrane were presented with the Outstanding Contribution by a Foster Carer award for their care of 14-year-old Justin.

"THEY have all brought such love and joy to our home," said Carol Cochrane, an award-winning foster carer.

Carol and her husband, Nigel live in Annalong and have been foster carers for almost 13 years. Last month they received a special award for all their hard work.

At a glamorous ceremony held at Westminster in London on Thursday, 26 October they were presented with the Outstanding Contribution by a Foster Carer award at the annual Fostering Excellence Awards, organised by The Fostering Netwo rk .

They were recognised for their dedication, devotion and selflessness over the years of outstanding care they have given to children.

"When I was told we won, I felt like a bit of a fraud," said Carol.

"The child we got the award for is so easy going, he is such a treasure to have." Justin has been with Carol and Nigel for nine years and is approaching his 14th birthday.

"He has a wide range of complex needs but he has his routine and it is quite busy, but we stick to that routine and it works for all of us," she said.

The Cochranes were nominated for the award by Daniel and Mary Maechling, respite carers who would look after Justin to give Carol and Nigel a bit of time to themselves every so often.

"They put their all into caring for these young people," said the Maechlings.

"Their tenacity in fighting for the children in their care is outstanding and they never accept that there is nothing more to be done for a child. Their resilience and strength is remarkable." Carol said they were "shocked" by the nomination.

"They never told us they had put in the nomination, we did not know until we found out we had won," she said.

As part of their journey to London for the awards, Carol and Nigel had the chance to stay in the city. However, they decided to stay somewhere that Justin would enjoy more.

We were going to be able to stay in London for a couple of days, but we chose to stay in Stoke on Trent at the CBeebies Hotel," she said.

"Each room is individually decorated for their programmes and we stayed in Mr Tumble's room as that is Justin's favourite character.

"We had a busy couple of days but the hotel was nice and relaxing and Justin loved it.

"We got the train from Stoke on Trent to London and Justin loved it. He has never been on a proper train before and it was a great experience." Over the years the couple has fostered approximately 30 children and indeed maintain contact with some of them.

"Our first child is still with us and stays with us. He is 22 now and is heading off to university," she said.

"We see them as our children, we don't look at them as foster children.

"It's a very rewarding role, I love it.

Justin is our life, as are the other children.

They have brought such a lot to our home and you do really enjoy their company.

"Justin is entirely dependant on us 24/7, but that is mostly when he is poorly. He is not a difficult child and it's not hard work. I think Justin is a gift. He brightens up our day, he is beautiful." As well as longer, permanent children with them, Carol and Nigel offer respite facilities for short periods of time.

"You have to be hard-hearted not to fall in love with the children. It's something I never anticipated, to be able to love someone else's children.

"I always knew I would care for other children, but the bonds you make, until you look after them yourself, you never anticipate those bonds." Carol and Nigel work with the Foster Care Associates in Belfast and said she would encourage anyone to consider fostering.

"For people thinking of fostering, a special needs child is that bit frightening I suppose.

But we just love him and we have our routine and it works.

"There are a lot of people out there who could be fantastic foster carers. It's not a hard process to become one, but it does take a bit of time to get through the process and the criteria."

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