Gawcott woman presented with MBE by HM The Queen at investiture ceremony

Judith Harper receives her MBE from HM The Queen
Judith Harper receives her MBE from HM The Queen

A woman from Gawcott picked up her MBE during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace last week.

Judith Harper was honoured for her fostering work with both Bucks County Council and the independent agency Family Placement in June as part of HM The Queen's birthday honours list.

She is keen to stress that it is very much a family effort - with her husband Steve, her two daughters Sabrina and Samantha, and her dog Swiper, all ensuring fostered children are made to feel welcome at the family home.

Judith has fostered around 100 children and vulnerable children since 1994 and has notched up 25 years of service in looking after others.

Reflecting on the day, Judith said: "It was a great honour to have my MBE presented to me by HM The Queen.

"We did not know who was going to make the presentation until we got there but when we found out it was Her Majesty I was a bit nervous."

Alongside their two adopted children, Judith and Stephen currently look after a foster child with severe autism, as well as a 31-year old woman with severe disabilities, who lives with them full-time.

The couple's five birth children have also played a significant role in helping improve the lives of the foster children that entered their home.

One of Judith’s sons and his wife have since become foster carers themselves, looking after two foster children of their own.

Judith chatted to Her Majesty as the award was handed over and said of the conversation: "She asked what age the children first arrived and how long they stayed.

"I said that I loved what I did and explained it was a team effort and my supportive family were very important.

"The Queen's message for me was to 'carry on what you are doing because you are clearly doing a brilliant job.'

"It was lovely to talk to her and she appeared genuinely interested in my story."

The types of foster care the family have provided over the years included taking in children requiring emergency placements and respite care, as well as young people that needed a short or long-term family home.

Reflecting on her time as a foster carer Judith said: “It is quite sad when the children leave, because some of them will have been with us for a few years, and have become involved with not just the family but also the wider community too.

"When thinking of the bigger picture however, finding them a lovely new family and sending them off to start a new life is a great outcome.”

Judith confirmed that fostering now runs in the family saying: “My daughter, who is training to be a social worker, has said that she is happy to take in any foster children that we have when the time comes, so we will be content with becoming fostering grandparents in that case!”

The day of Judith's investiture began with a minibus collecting a total of 16 family members for an early morning journey to Buckingham Palace.

Judith and Stephen, and their two birth daughters, headed into the palace while the rest of the family went on a sightseeing tour of London, which was to end at the O2 Arena where they were all reunited for lunch after the investiture.

Judith said: "I really enjoyed my time at the palace, and it was lovely to rejoin the rest of my family after the ceremony to celebrate.

‘I did briefly speak with Bear Grylls prior to going in - we were just two people nervous about meeting the Queen!

"I know so many other fantastic foster carers, so it’s really lovely to have been recognised."

If you would like to find out more about fostering with Family Placement visit https://www.nfa.co.uk/family-placement