I didn’t know what a family was until I lived with them

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Tributes to much loved foster carer of nearly 60 years

March 25th, 2020
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We have had tributes pour in for a beloved Compass foster carer, Janet Kent, 79, who sadly died suddenly at the end of February. Janet had been fostering with her husband Tom in for 59 years and had taken care of a staggering nearly 300 children in this time.

Everybody at Compass was saddened to hear the news of Janet’s passing and we have been celebrating her amazing fostering journey as it was a huge part of her lifetime. Janet left a lasting impact on not only the children she cared for, but every professional she came into contact with and other foster carers she met along the way. Janet had ‘amazing energy’ and dedicated her life to looking after vulnerable young people. She made sure to a make everybody who entered her home feel warm, with one of our social workers commenting that, “Tom and Jan’s home is lovely and homely, you feel comfortable as soon as you walk in and always feel welcome to stay. If this is how a professional was made to feel, then I would suggest that a child would feel this even more.” Both Janet and Tom kept ongoing relationships with many of the children they looked after well into adulthood. Now grownup, Ellis, who was cared for by the couple said that, “Jan was a great woman, from the moment I was fostered by her she was more of a mum than my real mum was.”

The staff at Compass said that it was “always a pleasure to support and work with Jan and Tom. Even after 50 plus years of fostering, their commitment to looking after children shows both their resilience and flexibility; along with the pleasure they get from fostering”. Janet truly believed that all young people had brilliant potential, and she said herself she felt that she ‘never wanted to put pressure on children, and having engaged with teenagers frequently, she felt she was good at helping them turn their lives around’. Daniel lived with Janet and Tom for over 20 years and moved out in 2016, he remembers his time with them saying, ‘without Tom and Jan, I simply wouldn’t be here. I moved through many foster carer’s homes before I arrived with Tom and Jan. I had a lot of difficulties and they stuck by me through it all. Tom and Jan are a massive influence on me and continue to be. They always made me feel part of the family’.

hearts

Janet and Tom ensured all foster children who entered their house were accepted by everyone in their close-knit family network. Each young person was made to feel safe, welcomed and treated as a part of their family. They were thoughtful and conscientious carers and would often go the extra mile for children in their care. Another care leaver, Nico stated ‘I moved to Tom and Jan’s when I was 10 many years ago. Both carers went above and beyond to help and support me and put me on the path to success in life. The majority of children who lived with them went on to succeed in life due to the love and care they offered. I didn’t know what a family was until I lived with them, Jan was a real mum to me. There is not enough I can say or do to show them how important they are to me and thank them for never giving up on me.’

Foster parents have an annual review each year, in Jan’s final review she said, ‘the most important impact [of fostering] was seeing the children leaving our care go into the world more knowledgeable and adapting to life’s challenges with more confidence and integrity, with love and care.’ Jan changed hundreds of lives and made such a difference to every foster child she cared for.

We could produce pages and pages of Jan’s achievements and tributes as she was loved by so many. We hope that this shows how incredible Jan was as a person and foster parent. She always wanted to encourage others to become foster carers as she knew just how rewarding it was- both for foster parents and young people.

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