A Crawley foster carer has been given royal recognition for her 38 years’ service to children and families.
Barbara ‘Babs’ Bower, 73, received an MBE from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace in recognition of her dedication to fostering with the county council.
From 1970 until 2014, Babs and her late husband, Bill, fostered 128 children and provided respite support to other foster carers.
The Ifield grandmother now fosters babies under the age of two through the council.
Speaking of her motivation for fostering, she said: “I just love children. I’ve got four of my own, one of which was adopted, and seven grandchildren. They’ve all grown up around our fostered children and it’s been really good for my family.
“My younger granddaughters will say, ‘who are you going to get next, Nana?’.”
Babs was among 70 guests honoured at the Investiture Ceremony held in the palace ballroom on Thursday 8 March.
On receiving her award, she added: “I was very nervous, very cold, but he (Charles, Prince of Wales) was lovely. We chatted and he said ‘well done, carry on the good work.’
“He asked me how long I was going to keep it up and I replied, ‘as long as I’m physically able to!’.”
Babs spent two spells fostering children aged five and under and sibling groups aged five to 10 years old. After caring for 18 years she took a 10-year break in 1988 and then re-trained on her return in 1998. At the time of her husband’s passing in 2014 she decided to foster babies released from hospital and in emergency situations.
Babs had this advice for people considering fostering.
She said: “Take the children that suit your family age group and fit in with what you’ve already got. You’ll make so many memories, just enjoy it.
“People say, ‘It must be hard to give them back?’ But actually, you’ve only got your own children for a certain amount of time before they’re off.”
In her spare time Babs volunteers at Squeals on Wheels toddler group at St Margaret’s Church, Ifield, and helps out at Sunday school for pre-school children.
Stephen Hillier, County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Babs’ story is remarkable. She is a credit to fostering in West Sussex, both in terms of her length of service and the range of children she’s cared for, from unaccompanied teens to babies in need.
“Her award is fully deserved and I’m delighted that she has been recognised nationally for her devotion to the fostering sector. We hope that she will choose to continue caring for many years to come!”
Crawley has been highlighted as an area currently needing more foster carers as part of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign (14-27 May).
A number of local, fostering drop-in sessions and information evenings are being held across the county in the coming weeks.
If Babs’ story has inspired you to find out about becoming a foster carer, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/fostering or call 0330 222 7775.