Co Down couple named NI Foster Carers of the Year

Mark Walker, left, of the Hilton Belfast, William and Valerie Newell, Kathleen Toner from the Fostering Network

A CO Down couple, described as "loving, kind, amazing and special people" by their foster children, have been named Foster Carers of the Year in Northern Ireland.

William and Valerie Newell from Annalong, who have been fostering with the Southern Trust for 13 years, were presented with the accolade from The Fostering Network.

The couple have looked after many babies, sibling groups and children with complex needs as well as bringing up three biological children. They said they "fell" into fostering through family links and have never looked back.

They were nominated by their two foster children, whose heartfelt handwritten nomination contained drawings detailing the Newell'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 wrote: "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.

"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."

Kathleen Toner from the Fostering Network said: "William, Valerie and all of our winners are shining examples of how foster care can transform children’s lives".

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