Fostering and Adoption Week: Retired Couple, Aged 76 And 84, Has Fostered 46 Children In The Past 30 Years

'We have had some truly lovely experiences.'

24/01/2017 17:15 | Updated 25 January 2017

A couple aged 76 and 84 who have been fostering children for the past 30 years said they will carry on doing it for as long as they can. 

Ken, 84, and Viv, 76, were inspired to start fostering by their daughter, Michelle, who was a full-time foster carer at the time. 

They offered to look after children for respite care, to give full-time foster parents a break from children in their care.

“We couldn’t do it full-time, so we were prepared to allow other foster parents to have a rest,” Ken told The Huffington Post UK.

“It’s mainly during the holidays but could have been at any time. If there was an emergency and a child had to get out of the house quickly, they would come here.

“You have to be sensitive to their experiences. One girl we had recently seemed okay, but one day I walked into her bedroom and she was crying. She was saying: ‘All I want is to be loved.’”

Barnardos
Ken, Viv and their two daughters Michelle, 51 (on the left), and Gail, 49 (on the right).

The couple has opened up about their fostering experience as part of Barnardo’s Fostering and Adoption Week (23-29 January 2017). 

According to the charity there is currently a shortfall of 9,000 foster carers in the UK and they hope to appeal to adults to consider fostering and make a difference to a child’s life.

Ken and Viv have fostered children of all ages, some for up to six months at a time. Some of the children have stayed within the family and come to them for respite care, then on to their daughter - a full-time foster carer.

Over the past 30 years, they’ve had 46 children in their care, some of whom have come back and forth depending on their circumstances. 

“The children like to be treated as one of the family,” explained Viv. “They don’t want to be an outsider who has just walked into the home.”

But being foster carers isn’t always an easy ride, as the couple explained.

“They can be more challenging,” said Viv. “We had never thought about fostering before until it was put to us by our daughter. It’s obviously difficult because the children have come from such bad experiences.”

Ken agreed adding: “Some of the children we have had come from families who have used drugs or who have family members in prison and some have been sexually abused.

“Some have a chip on their shoulder and are inclined to treat you a bit like dirt, but we haven’t had any we can’t handle. All they want is love, and often they are very loving themselves because they haven’t had it at home.” 

“You try to give them such a happy experience and show them it’s not all doom and gloom and their life can be good,” said Viv.

“You have to listen to them and be quite calm because when you shout - they don’t listen.”

Barnardos

The couple often foster immigrant children who have been through horrendous experiences. These children can be challenging in a different way to the kids they usually care for. 

“We had a boy who had travelled from Afghanistan and we were watching ‘Silent Witness’ where they had an immigrant in the van,” Ken explained. “The boy sat there crying his eyes out, we just didn’t think. 

“These children, they have different problems and you have to be there for them.”

The couple stay in touch with many children they have previously fostered and enjoy seeing them during family celebrations and Christmas. 

“We have had two or three of them turn up at Christmas, including a boy from Norway who brings us Christmas presents and comes to see us,” said Ken.

“We have had some truly lovely experiences - most experiences are great and they sometimes treat us like grandparents so they respect us.”

Viv said despite the challenges, she really enjoys being a foster carer. 

“It is rewarding,” she explained. “You do get those rewards but you just have to be patient and include them in the family.

“When the children first come we sit at the table and I tell them the rules of the house so they know where they stand and you find nine times out of 10, they obey those boundaries.

“I always say: ‘You’re nervous about coming to me but we feel just as nervous because we don’t know you so we’re in the same position’.

“I will carry on for as long as I can, I enjoy it.” 

For more information on fostering and adoption through Barnardo’s, please visit their website

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