A caring couple have received a royal seal of approval in the Queen’s birthday’s honours list after dedicating their lives to fostering more than 80 children and young people during their 30-year career.

Chris and Harry Burditt, both 71 from Wincobank, have received MBEs – a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire – from the Queen in her latest round of honours. They were nominated by Sheffield City Council’s Fostering Service for their ‘selfless and unwavering’ support for some of Sheffield’s most vulnerable children and young people.

Chris and Harry, who were married 20 years ago and have four children, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren of their own, say they are ‘proud but shocked’ to receive the accolade, awarded to people nationally for their outstanding service to the community.

Chris said: “We found out about our MBEs a month ago when our letters from ‘Her Majesty’s Service’ dropped on the doormat and we thought someone was joking. I was so convinced it wasn’t genuine I was more bothered about our gas bill which arrived at the same time!

“But now the news has settled in we are incredibly pleased. It’s a great honour and we’re very proud. Our children are over the moon about it and are very proud of us too.

“I’ve dedicated my life to caring for people, it’s something I have always done and loved. I’ve enjoyed everything about being a foster carer, all the children and challenges. It’s not all been plain sailing as we’ve had some children who have come from very difficult backgrounds. But we’ve looked after more than 80 children in the past 30 years, ranging from new-borns to school age children.

“When I married Harry 20 years ago I said I would never give up my job as a foster carer because I loved it so much and he has been a wonderful support, we have worked together very well. Life as a foster carer has been hectic but wonderful because children are such a joy. And nearly all of them have kept in touch. It’s been so rewarding to see them fulfil their potential and even go on to have their own children.”
Sheffield City Council’s Fostering and Adoption Service currently has 290 fostering households in Sheffield who look after more than 280 children.

Most people can be a foster carer, whether they are single, divorced, widowed, retired, unemployed or working. Foster carers can be from any ethnic and cultural background,be gay, straight or bisexual.

The level of care offered can vary from those offering short breaks or temporary care to providing a permanent home for a child or young person. There is a need for more potential foster carers to come forward, particularly people like Chris and Harry who can offer a loving home to older children.
Chris added: “I would encourage anyone to be a foster carer but I’d say you have to really want to do it. It’s certainly not a nine to five job, its 24/7 and you need a lot of patience, a sense of humour and know how to be firm but fair.

“But you also have to be willing to invest time in the children and we’ve always played cards, board games, read books, helped them with their homework and we go for walks. We have to mould them into decent citizens and show them what they can get out of life if they follow the right path. It’s really been a pleasure.”

The council’s Fostering Service runs information evenings throughout the year for anyone interested in fostering. There are opportunities to meet staff and foster carers like Chris and Harry who regularly attend the meetings to tell people about their fostering experiences.
The next information evening will take place at the Quaker Meeting House in Sheffield city centre from 5.45pm to 8pm on Wednesday 2 July.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families at Sheffield City Council, said: “It’s wonderful that Chris and Harry have been rewarded for their dedication and care by Her Majesty in her birthday honour’s list. I’m sure the many children and young people they have cared for in the past 30 years will be as proud of them as the council is.

“Becoming a foster carer can be a challenge but immensely rewarding. Being a foster carer is about more than just providing a child with a roof over their head, it’s about helping them to grow up happy, healthy and with the confidence to reach their full potential, in a loving home. Chris and Harry have done exactly this for 30 years and are a true inspiration and fantastic ambassadors for the Sheffield Fostering Service.

“I want to thank them so much for their hard work, dedication and commitment to foster care for so many years.

“I really hope their example will encourage many other people to find out how they can become foster carers in Sheffield too and make a real difference to children and young people’s lives.”

For more information about fostering services in Sheffield call 0114 2735075 or email fostering@sheffield.gov.uk.