A dedicated  foster carer who has been providing children and young people with a stable and loving home for 40 years has been honoured for her outstanding service.

Since she began fostering in 1973, Jacquie Rowbottom has cared for more than 250 youngsters while raising six children of her own.

Her special achievement was formally recognised at an afternoon tea held in her honour by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Jacquie, who lives in Chester, was presented with flowers and a gift during the celebration at Whitby Sports and Social Club in Ellesmere Port, which was attended by councillors and senior managers.

Her supervising social worker, Jan Gibson, told the gathering: “Whenever Jacquie has been asked ‘will you…?’ she has said yes.”

“Jacquie gives her all to the children who live with her and they recognise this. This is what making a difference means.”

“In Jacquie’s house it means lots of love, lots of explanations, lots of laughter, lots of sleepless nights, lots of tears, and the children also learn that actions have consequences.”

“When her babies and children have moved on into adoptive homes a piece of her heart goes with them, but then she picks herself up and starts all over again.”

Jacquie, who is currently caring for a baby and two young girls, said: “I’ve always loved kids, I have a caring nature. I was born to be a mum.”

“Children need routine, love and attention, someone to listen to them and to support them. It’s so rewarding and exciting when you bring happiness to their lives. They come to you with sad eyes and it’s wonderful to see that change and see their eyes light up. The smallest things bring you so much pleasure.”

Cllr Margaret Parker, chair of the children and adult safeguarding committee, was among the guests at Jacquie’s celebration.

She said: “On behalf of Cheshire West and Chester Council, I would like to pay tribute to Jacquie and her incredible dedication to fostering. After four decades she is still making a difference to the lives of children and young people. She is truly an inspiration.”

Cllr Parker added: “I hope that Jacquie’s story inspires more people to consider becoming a foster carer or adopter. We urgently need more people in West Cheshire to fulfil these vital roles.”

“No special qualifications or experience are needed – you just need to be able to offer a secure, stable and caring environment to a child or young person who cannot live with their own family.”

Jacquie is keen to encourage people to consider whether they could open up their home to a looked-after child.

She said: “You have no idea what it is like until you’ve done it. My advice is to try short-term first – it will give you an insight and some experience. It won’t always be easy. But the pleasure of seeing them happy makes it all worthwhile.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about fostering or adoption can text SMILE to 80010, call the recruitment team on 01244 972222 or visit www.fosteringwestcheshire.co.uk .