County Down couple named Northern Ireland Foster Carers of the Year


William and Valerie Newell, were nominated by their two foster children, who say any child would be lucky to live with them.

They were given the accolade from The Fostering Network at Northern Ireland’s 2017 Foster Carer of the Year Awards, on Saturday 13 May at the Hilton Hotel, Belfast.

The award selection panel were ‘blown away’ by the stories the Newells shared with them. The couple have been fostering with the Southern Trust for 13 years, looking after many babies, sibling groups and children with complex needs as well as bringing up three children of their own.

According to William and Valerie, the couple ‘fell’ into fostering through family links. They started to help out and have never looked back.

The children’s heartfelt handwritten nomination, complete with drawings, details William and Valerie’s incredible efforts for the children they care for, including how they record every feed, sleep and first smile for the babies they foster.

The couple’s foster child, said: ‘My brother and I lived with six foster families before we came to live with Valerie and William, but this is where we are staying. We are so happy and safe here. They are always there to help and guide me and get me the support I need.

‘This is the most brilliant place a child could grow up and have brilliant life. They mean the world to us and any child lucky enough to live here would be happy and healthy like I am now.’

Several other awards were handed out at the ceremony recognising kinship carers and lifetime achievement.

Kathleen Toner, director of The Fostering Network in Northern Ireland, said: ‘William, Valerie and all of our winners are shining examples of how foster care can transform children’s lives. It is thanks to them and thousands of other foster carers that children can feel supported and happy. We are pleased to be honouring them all tonight and saying we are proud to support fostering, celebrating those people who devote their lives to helping children and young people.’

Una Carragher, Manager for the Regional Adoption and Fostering Service commented: ‘The HSC Regional Adoption and Fostering Service is delighted to co-host the Foster Carer of the Year celebration with The Fostering Network. The celebration is an opportunity to thank HSC foster carers for their commitment, care and attention to our children and young people. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the need for more foster carers within the 5 HSC Trusts who can provide stable, safe and loving homes to children and young people in foster care.’

If you think you might have the skills and qualities to foster, find your local fostering service by visiting


Full list of award winners:

Foster Carers of the Year 2017 – William and Valerie Newell

Kinship Foster Carer of Distinction – Marlene Feeney from Derry

Kinship Foster Carers of Distinction – Kate and Billy Laverty from Belfast

Foster Carers of Distinction – Pat and Orla Devlin from Dungannon

Foster Carers of Distinction – Bridie and Patrick Bertenshaw from Bangor

Foster Carers of Distinction – Sharon Duffy and Alex Meikle from Moneyreagh

Foster Carers of Distinction – Tommy and Maureen Walker from Antrim

Foster Carer of Distinction – Lisa Duffy from Belfast

Foster Carer of Distinction – William McBride from Crumlin

Lifetime Achievement Award – Gerard and Marion Lennon from Downpatrick

Lifetime Achievement Award – Rita and Robert Cranston from Ballinamallard