A FOSTER carer who has looked after 30 children over 19 years has been named the winner of the first WeCare Wales award.

Sandra Stafford, a foster carer from Conwy County Borough Council, was nominated for the award by social workers Danielle Dally and Sarah Vater.

In their nomination, Danielle and Sarah described Sandra and her husband Mark as "exceptional foster carers" who demonstrate commitment and passion, and who’ve provided a high quality of care to all the children they’ve fostered since 2001.

Sandra, 59, who is married to husband Mark, was one of five finalists selected for the award by a panel of judges.

She was chosen as the winner by a public poll in which more than 2,000 people voted.

North Wales Pioneer:

Sandra Stafford, a foster carer for Conwy County Borough Council, and her husband Mark have cared for children since 2001.

Mick Giannasi, chair of Social Care Wales, said: “This year has been a year like no other and those working in the social care, early years and childcare sectors have surpassed themselves in the way they have supported individuals and communities, helping keep people safe and enabling them to continue, as best they can, to live the lives that matter to them.

“My congratulations to all the winners and finalists, you should be incredibly proud of your achievements and the excellent work that you do. And thank you to everyone working in social care, early years and childcare for everything you do on behalf of the people of Wales.”

Julie Morgan MS, deputy minister for Health and Social Care, said: “I’m delighted we have this opportunity with the Accolades to pay tribute to the social care and early years workforce, and to celebrate the contribution of those providing excellence in care in Wales.“It is so important that we celebrate excellence in care, now more than ever. During what has been an extraordinary and difficult year for us all, we should be proud and encouraged by the amazing examples of care work by our finalists.

“The work carried out is truly innovative and inspirational – there is such a lot to be proud of. Dedication, skill and hard work has brought the finalists to the 2020 Accolades, and I am honoured to recognise and celebrate their success.”

The awards are organised by Social Care Wales and recognise, celebrate and share excellent social care, early years and childcare practice in Wales.

A total of six accolades were presented in a celebratory programme hosted by radio and television presenter Garry Owen and Social Care Wales’s chief executive Sue Evans, which was broadcast live over YouTube.

The judging panel included members of Social Care Wales’s Board, representatives from partner organisations across social care, early years and childcare, previous winners and people with experience of using care and support.

Sandra commented: "Mark and I are absolutely thrilled."

Prior to winning, Sandra told the Pioneer: "We don’t foster for any kind of recognition, we foster to help look after and care for any child who comes into our home.

“We’d thought about fostering many years ago but decided to put it on the back burner as we had a young family. About 20 years after a conversation with a friend we decided to go ahead and apply. We haven’t looked back since.

“We began as short break carers for children with a disability and two years later I gave up my job to become a full time foster carer.

“During our time fostering there have been so many highlights. Seeing the children thrive and see the joy in them when they’ve achieved something, working to ensure they get the best possible start in life is amazing.

“Joy also comes with sadness as we say goodbye to our little ones as they leave to begin a new chapter in their lives.”

Sue Evans, Social Care Wales’s chief executive, said: “We have been delighted by not only the record number, but the standard and variety of entries we received for the 2020 accolades."