Pimlico foster carers receive MBEs for 21 years of service

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By JulieGK | Tuesday, December 04, 2012, 20:08

A Pimlico couple who have opened their home to almost 50 vulnerable children over the past 21 years have received MBE honours from Her Majesty the Queen.

Maureen and Tony Coumbe received their honours at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, in recognition of their service to children.

The couple live in Churchill Gardens and have cared for 48 young children in their 21-year fostering career. Speaking following their award presentation, they encouraged more local residents to consider fostering in the Westminster community.

Maureen said: "Fostering becomes a way of life and it's a whole family commitment. It can be a difficult job but it's also very rewarding, and I would really recommend other local people to consider fostering or occasional respite care.

"We have always taken on under-fives, and people ask us the million-dollar question of how we can bear to give them up again. But the way I see it is they were never ours to keep, and you have to love them enough to let them go on to their lovely new families."

She added: "At our party after the MBE presentation we had five of our foster children come back to visit us, and that's the real reward – to see how they are getting on with their new families and embarking on exciting things like starting school."

Maureen has particular expertise in looking after babies and moving them on to adoptive parents, and still keeps in touch with a number of the families, sharing stories of the children's progress. She has also looked after babies with medical problems and has spent nights with some of them at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The couple's MBE nominations came about when Maureen helped out at Holy Trinity Primary School in Cadogan Gardens, where her daughter Lisa works as a school administrator. Maureen's work came to the attention of a teacher at the school, who was deeply impressed and set about collecting support for the couple's award nominations.

Commenting on Maureen and Tony's royal honours, presented to them on November 16, Cllr Nickie Aiken, said: "Maureen and Tony have selflessly opened their home to almost 50 young children over the past two decades, enduring many a sleepless night, and have made a profound difference to these young people's lives.

"Our fostering service relies on people like Maureen and Tony to provide a stable, loving environment for vulnerable young children, who have often experienced considerable trauma in their short lives."



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