Somerset foster carer Karen Deverell’s work with young people has been recognised nationally with an MBE in the recent honours list.
Karen was with the YMCA for 25 years – 17 of those as Chief Executive of the YMCA in Mendip and South Somerset. And her MBE was in recognition for her valuable service. After so long at the helm of the YMCA, she felt the time was right for a change in focus. Her experience with an organisation so closely involved with young people led her to enrol as a Somerset County Council foster carer.
She took up fostering just two years ago and has looked after both very young and teenage children since embarking on her new path.
“I felt I wanted to do something worthwhile and would make a difference,” said Karen, whose own children are now adults “During my years with the YMCA I met young people who had had both good and poor experiences of care. I knew what a difference a good experience and a supportive home means to a child or young person.”.
At first she combined working for YMCA with fostering to make sure she was making the right decision, but then decided to become a full time foster carer. Now she is looking after a teenager – and is looking forward to welcoming a young arrival into the household soon.
At the YMCA she worked with young people aged 16-plus so is enjoying learning the new skills needed to care for much younger children and appreciates the support provided by the Council’s fostering and health and wellbeing teams.
“Fostering means you can ‘work from home’. I have spent many years working long hours away from home. Now I can see more of my grown-up children and parents. Fostering enables me to do that.
“It means you can be more flexible with your own time within the safety net provided by Somerset County Council. There’s a huge amount of support available and that is so reassuring. So I would encourage people who may have thought about becoming a foster carer to take the next step.”
Karen said that while some may wonder if they could cope with saying goodbye to a child they had cared for, it was important to realise what a difference their care would make to that child.
“It is hugely rewarding. You do need resilience and need to be loving and professional at the same time. I would definitely encourage more people to come forward to help children and young people.”
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Lead member for children and families, said: “I am delighted to congratulate Karen on being awarded the MBE for her service to young people.
“I am so pleased she is now fostering and wants to encourage more people to think about foster caring. Children need a safe and secure home – now more than ever. We welcome people of all ages and backgrounds as foster carers as long as they meet the criteria.”
Foster carers need a spare room in their home and must be at least 21 years old, with no upper age limit, but most of all, they need to want to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable young people. Foster carers receive a weekly fee and allowance, plus ongoing support and a dedicated supervising social worker.
Find out how you can help change a child’s story online at www.fosteringinsomerset.org.uk, or call our friendly team on 0800 587 9900 for an informal chat.