Sunderland has honoured the foster carers who provide new hope for some of the city's most vulnerable youngsters.
More than 30 of the city’s longest serving foster carers were invited to a presentation ceremony at The Quayside Exchange.
They received their awards and the city's thanks from Mayor CounAlan Emerson, who said: "I was delighted to join this annual celebration and recognition of the massive contribution foster carers make to the lives of young people in their care and to our city.
"They provide some of our most vulnerable children and young people with the support and stability they need, to develop and thrive through what is a challenging period in all our lives.
"As Mayor of Sunderland I was proud to be able to formally say thank you on behalf of our city, and congratulate our foster carers on their achievements and long service awards."
Coun Emerson presented awards for service ranging from five, ten to 25 years and also presented the annual Celia Parnell Award to Valerie Barzey.
Celia Parnell was a former chair of the fostering and adoption panel and the annual award was created in her memory at the request of her family to recognise someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the welfare of looked after children.
Over her 16 years as a foster carer for Sunderland City Council and five years for Barnado’s previously, Valerie has cared for more than 30 children.
After taking well deserved early retirement from a career working in hotels when she was 55 years old and raising her own three children, Valerie saw Fostering as her chance to work with children and in particular those with challenging needs.
Over the years she has provided all types of fostering placements from young children up to teenagers with challenging behaviour and learning difficulties. She has offered both short term and long term placement during her fostering career, and currently cares for a ten year old boy who has been with her for two years.
Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Coun Louise Farthing said: "With each new placement, Valerie has always been keen and enthusiastic demonstrating the same passion for fostering and to making a difference for the children she cares for.
"She takes pride in the achievements of children and has encouraged them to be all that they can be. Valerie is also not afraid to stand her ground, and has advocated for many children ensuring they get the best service possible to meet their own individual needs.
"Valerie has been an inspiration to professionals, fellow foster carers and to the children she has cared for. She has been an asset to the Fostering Service, being reliable and consistent in her approach. Valerie is considering retiring from fostering at some stage in the near future and will be a huge loss to the service."
Valerie, 76, said: "I was over the moon to receive this award, particularly as I knew Celia Parnell from the time when I first became a foster carer. She was a wonderful lady who everyone respected, which makes this award even more of an honour.
"I have really enjoyed my time as a foster carer and sometimes consider retiring, but then think my home isn’t a home without children in it. They now need us even more, life for children has changed a lot over the years and they face new problems and challenges that we need to help them overcome."
Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer, please visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/fostering or call 0191 520 5553 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org