Joan Wilson visited Buckingham Palace alongside her proud husband and three children to collect her MBE last month.
A Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) is awarded for ‘outstanding achievement or service to the community’ which ‘will have had a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others’. This couldn’t be more appropriate given that Joan, alongside her husband Leroy, has opened her heart and home to foster over 50 children to date, many of them teenagers.
“The night before I was very nervous,” Joan said about how she felt receiving her honour. “But the day of collecting my MBE was beautiful, I was smiling so much. The moment my guests had to go through a separate entrance and I was taken off and taught how to bow and curtsy I began to feel excited!”
“Prince William presented me with my MBE and we had a long conversation. He was very nice and I think I gave him a good laugh!”
“After singing the national anthem he gave me a wink on the way out – everyone was very interested to know what we’d been talking about! Afterwards I was met by my social worker and my IRO (Independent Reviewing Officer). I cried tears of joy as we talked about my experience. I felt really honoured.”
When asked about how she feels looking back at the impact she’s made to all the children she’s fostered, Joan said: “I feel blessed and special to have been in a position to give these children warmth, love and care. Allowing them to have a voice so they can pass this onto their own children and grandchildren brings me so much joy.
“I like knowing I can help children, especially the ones who really need it. It’s not just giving them a bed to sleep in. It goes deeper. I want to see them go to University and be the best person in life that they want to be – and to do this they need a caring family and a loving home. It’s all about being that someone who can motivate them.”
Joan’s MBE will now take pride of place in a safe space in her living room.
Cllr Jennifer Brathwaite, Deputy Leader of the Council (Children and Young People), said: “We’re immensely proud of Joan who of course very much deserves to receive this honor. She’s a huge asset to the children and the entire Lambeth community – we’re so pleased that her contribution has been recognised.”
Annie Hudson, Strategic Director of Children’s Services, said: “Joan has had a huge impact on the lives of very many children and young people during her 23 years of service in Lambeth. Her positive approach and enthusiasm for continuously developing her skills have made her an exceptional carer. Most important, however, has been her unerring focus on keeping children’s needs at the heart of everything she does. This award not only celebrates Joan’s great contribution but it also highlights how all foster carers go above and beyond the call of duty to support our looked after children.”
In her 23 years Joan has been attending the Foster Carers Support Group – a group that meets once a month to support one another and suggest service developments and improvements. She also acts as a mentor for other carers and has recently been providing care for young offenders, an area that she feels very passionate about.
Children are placed in foster care for a number of reasons, such as family illness or breakdown, or to protect the welfare of a child who’s been neglected or abused. In Lambeth there are approximately 400 children in care. Many of these children are in need of a loving and stable home whilst they go through a very difficult period in their lives.
Who can become a foster carer?
Anyone with the passion and commitment to make a difference to the lives of children and young people can apply. You just need to be over 21 years old, have a spare room and permanent residency in the UK.
Find out more about becoming a carer for Lambeth
If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, we’d love to hear from you. We’re running weekly drop-in sessions at San Marino Café in Brixton every Wednesday from 10 to 12pm. Here you can talk directly to a member of the Fostering Team and apply.