BY TOBY PORTER
A foster carer who has brought up more than 100 children and teenagers has been recognised by the Queen.
Pearl Howard, Wandsworth’s most experienced and longest-serving foster carer, has been made an MBE for services to children and families in the New Year’s Honours list.
Pearl has been fostering for more than 40 years, many of those with her husband Claude before he passed away, and has provided a stable and loving home for well over 100 young people. She is particularly valued by Wandsworth council’s fostering service for her skill at caring for teenage boys.
Pearl said she found out about the MBE in a letter from the cabinet office: She said: “It was marked urgent and personal and I could not imagine what it was about. It just didn’t sink in – I just signed the letter and returned it as requested. I was sworn not to reveal it to anyone until it was published.
“When it was announced I was elated and all my children were here with me. They all gathered in my bedroom and one daughter read out the contents of the letter to my other children. They were all over excited and there were tears of happiness.
“For me there were also tears for the memories I shared of the time together with Claude when he was with us. My children reminded me that he was still there in spirit and that he would be laughing as he usually did. It was wonderful to know that all our work has been valued in this way.”
The council’s spokesman for education and young people, Cllr Sarah McDermott, said: “Pearl has opened her heart and her home to young people and given them the chance of a caring, stable family life.
“She and all our other hard-working foster carers are worth their weight in gold, and we are truly grateful for the service they provide to their community. I am delighted that Pearl’s work has been recognised in this very public and profound way.”
Wandsworth is always in need of more foster carers, especially those who can care for teenagers, and the council’s fostering team is keen to hear from people who want to find out more. Call now for a one-to-one session or book yourself on to an information session at the town hall. The first is on February 1 and there are three sessions planned, from 10am until noon, 2pm-4pm and 6pm to 8pm. There will further sessions on March 15, April 19 and May 17.
Foster carers do not need to own their own home, but they do need a spare room. You can be married, in a civil partnership, or single and Wandsworth’s carers come from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Single foster carers, or at least one member of a couple, must be aged between 25 and 60 and be in good health. You will be paid allowances and fees.