TRIBUTES have poured in for a “dedicated and passionate” foster carer who has passed away.

Janet Kent, who lived in Lancing with her husband Tom, had fostered nearly 300 children and young people over 59 years.

The 79-year-old, who died suddenly on February 20, had received a long service award for fostering in November, and was still a registered foster carer when she passed away.

Louise Davidson, operations manager at fostering service Compass South, said: “Janet came to us from another agency a few years ago.

“We were conscious that she was one of our older foster carers.

“She and Tom last fostered a young person in April last year.

“It’s very unusual for someone to be a foster carer for so long as it’s very hard work.

“It’s emotionally exhausting to give everything to these often traumatised young people who have had very difficult starts in life, and to give them unconditional love – to give them that ‘I’m here for you’ regardless.

“It’s really tiring and to do it for that length of time and up to that age is really admirable.

“It shows a real passion and dedication.”

Louise said Janet had her last annual review for fostering in December, and she had remained positive and enthusiastic about her care leavers.

She added: “Janet was still wanting to talk about the young people and their achievements and celebrating the young people she had cared for, who she was still in touch with.

“Fostering was her life.”

Janet’s funeral took place on Thursday, and Louise added it was a “great shame” staff at Compass and social workers would not be able to attend because of the social distancing measures in place due to the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking before the funeral, Louise said: “We are all deeply sad that there will be limited numbers at Janet’s funeral due to the coronavirus.

“She’s touched so many lives and the turnout won’t reflect this at all.”

Both Janet and Tom kept ongoing relationships with many of the children they looked after well into adulthood.

Daniel lived with Janet and Tom for more than 20 years and moved out in 2016.

He said: “Without Tom and Jan, I simply wouldn’t be here.

“I moved through many foster carers’ homes before I arrived with them.

“I had a lot of difficulties and they stuck by me through it all.

“Tom and Jan are a massive influence on me and continue to be.

“They always made me feel part of the family.”

Another care leaver, Nico said: “I moved to Tom and Jan’s when I was ten.

“Both carers went above and beyond to help and support me and put me on the path to success in life.

“I didn’t know what a family was until I lived with them – Jan was a real mum to me.

“The majority of children who lived with them went on to succeed in life due to the love and care they offered.

“There is not enough I can say or do to thank them for never giving up on me.”