SUPERMUM Val Barzey has given a loving home to 30 troubled Sunderland youngsters.
The 70-year-old has devoted her life to being a foster mum for children who’ve faced traumas including domestic violence.
Despite finding it difficult to say goodbye to her foster kids, she says the best part of her role is seeing them walk out of her home a different person.
Val, who became a foster carer 25 years ago, said: “The children I get all have horrendous problems because of horrendous childhoods.
“What happened to them would affect anybody.
“You have some kids who flinch when you walk past, but once they learn to trust you and they stop flinching it’s great.
“The gorgeous part of the job is seeing them blossom, getting self esteem and pride.”
The mum-of-three started fostering through Barnardo’s and for the past 11 years has taken in Wearside children placed with her by Sunderland City Council.
In the past year, she has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy as she battled breast cancer, but she didn’t let it get in the way of her caring role.
She said: “I have one girl at the moment. She was only supposed to be with me from one Thursday to the next Monday but she’s with me eight years later.
“She would have been devastated if she had to move because of the cancer. I couldn’t do that to her.”
Val has now been recognised with a national carer award.
She was presented with the Reed National Carer of the Year Award 2011 by Baroness Joan Bakewell at the Waldorf Hotel in London, after receiving the highest number of nominations in the history of the award.
Yesterday, she met Sunderland’s mayor, Coun Norma Wright in honour of her achievement.
Val says the key to being a good foster mum to children with complex needs and challenging behaviour is boundaries and love.
“I stick to strong boundaries, so they know where they are with me and feel safe,” she explained.
“If no means no, then they know where they stand.
“If they feel safe, they know no harm will come to them. I’m very much one for girl power as well.”
Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Children and Learning Coun Pat Smith said: “Over the last 11 years, Val has looked after around 30 children, using her endless patience and unique nurturing skills to provide a safe, loving and supportive home environment.
“A measure of her success is the fact that so many who have arrived as emergency or temporary placements have chosen to remain with Val, and have stayed with her until they reached independence, returned to their families or were adopted.
“Val has often cared for children and young people with very complex needs and has nurtured them in only the way she can, with love and kindness, always putting their needs first and ensuring she teaches them life skills that they can carry through out their lives.”