Hammersmith & Fulham’s most decorated and prolific foster carer has spoken about her amazing career looking after more than 240 local children.
Hanora McCool, 68, lifelong resident and great grandmother, lives in West Kensington and has fostered children from across the borough for the last 35 years.
She is one of the 206 foster carers approved across H&F, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, who have helped to care for almost 400 children and young people over the last year.
“Every child deserves a safe, loving and stable home, and it’s fantastic residents like Hanora, who make that a reality for our young people,” said Cllr Alex Sanderson, H&F Cabinet Member for Children and Education.
“Her lifetime of commitment is an inspiration and a hugely generous act, and I wish to thank her for her service. The dedication of our foster parents is one the many things that are helping to make H&F a stronger, safer, kinder borough.”
Hanora’s 35 years of foster care is a huge commitment. Of the 152 households currently approved to foster across the three boroughs, only one in five has been fostering for more than 20 years – the average is 12.5 years.
She is currently caring for three children, a 14-year-old boy, a three-and-a-half-year-old boy and a 17-month-old boy.
“I was originally a childminder, and someone from the council came to our support group to tell us about fostering. It was always something I’d wanted to do, so I signed up,” said Hanora.
She comes from a large family, and has five adult children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, with a third on the way.
“Lots of us work with children. My sister is a foster carer, one daughter works in a school, another has worked as a nanny, and one of my grand-daughters works in a nursery,” explained Hanora.
“Even my mother fostered a child from a family we knew when I was little.”
Hanora fosters children aged 0-11, sometimes for as little as a few days, but has fostered some children for as long as four years.
“Each child’s situation is different. Sometimes I look after a little one if mum’s had to go into hospital and there’s no one else to look after them, and sometimes it’s for a much longer stretch while the Foster Team work out if it’s suitable for the child to return home,” she said.
“With my fourteen-year-old, he’s obviously older than the children I normally care for, but he came to me when he was 10. I wasn’t planning to take any more long-term placements because of my age, but when they started to look for a permanent home for him, he asked if he could stay, and I accepted.”
Making a difference
Hanora has no plans to stop fostering any time soon.
“I can’t imagine not doing it to be honest with you, I absolutely love it. As long as my doctor says I’m fit enough to continue, I will,” said Hanora.
“Children who are being looked after thrive on having a routine, boundaries, stability, and trust and love, no matter how short a time they’re with you.”
“You may take on children who are quite delayed with sitting or walking, and very quickly you can see changes in them. We also have children who arrive with attachment disorders, where they wake up and don’t give you any indication to let you know that they’re awake.
“That’s often because they may never have been picked up when they cried, and you soon see that turnaround once they’ve been here for a while.
“Some of them might even fall over and won’t come for comfort, but it’s so nice when you do see those changes and see them start to make those attachments, because you know they’ll be able to make those connections with their permanent family. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
Hanora works to give her children experiences they may not have had the chance to try before. Each weekend throughout the summer she tries to take them out, whether to the theatre, to the London Eye, down to Bournemouth or to a theme park.
While staying with her, the children in care are also able to join evening and weekend clubs and try new things outside of school.
H&F works to support everyone in the fostering system, both children in care and foster carers. Hanora has her own allocated social worker and also a support system in place that provides a back-up carer so that she can take time off as she needs.
Foster Carers are also provided with training, competitive fees and allowance, and around the clock support.
Fostering through the pandemic
Hanora even fostered throughout the pandemic.
“There were a lot of carers who didn’t take placements through covid, but I did. I had two girls and that was really successful. It was a really really good placement,” she said.
“Their adoptive parents quarantined for the two weeks before each meet during the transition period. It was my birthday while we were visiting the girls’ new home, and they even threw a little party for me. It was lovely.”
Hanora is also on the ‘out of hours’ list, meaning she can get a call for an emergency placement at any time of day.
“On one occasion I had a child arrive at one o’clock in the morning, and then I had another child arrive at two o’clock in the morning, both had been with parents who had been arrested overnight.”
These emergency placements are not regular, but Hanora is happy to step in when needed.
“Almost as soon as I’ve got a free spot, I get a phone call from one the team hoping to place a child with me, I’ve very rarely got a free home.”
To read more about the experiences of local Foster Carers, visit our fostering website.
Want to foster?
You really don’t need to be a Hanora to be a foster parent!
To learn more about fostering in H&F, attend one of our online information sessions, held in partnership with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster City Council, presented by social workers and current foster carers.
Find out more here on our fostering events webpage.
If you would like to speak to someone in person, you can call for an informal chat and more information on: 020 8753 1057.
Phone lines are open Monday to Friday, 9.30am-5pm.
Or email: email@example.com.
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