A husband and wife who are among North Yorkshire’s longest serving foster carers are urging other people to come forward and make a difference to the lives of children in care.
Melvyn and Hilary Aubin, who are both in their 60s, have been foster carers for 30 years and are still fostering. They have fostered over 200 children from babies, to teenagers, to sibling groups to young mothers with babies. They are now urging others also to consider fostering.
If anybody thinks they can help a child or young person through a difficult time and get them back on track then I urge them to do it.
It is such a worthwhile thing to do and everybody has something to offer.
Melvyn and Hilary received their long service award at a recent fostering conference held by North Yorkshire County Council. The conference attracted over 140 foster carers to attend training workshops and presentations on issues such as internet safety and support networks.
Although the local authority has an impressive record of placing children and young people in care with families, there is an urgent need for more families to come forward, particularly families willing to take on siblings and teenagers and those with special needs.
About 360 children are in foster homes in North Yorkshire but the authority needs another 50 carers to meet demand, including carers willing to give children a placement up to adulthood. A number of information evenings are therefore being held around the county on November 26th for anybody who might be interested in becoming a foster carer.
Melvyn and Hilary, who have taken in children from all over the county, decided before they were married that they wanted to be foster carers, but waited until their own two boys were teenagers before they took on the commitment. They have never looked back and “have no intention of packing up”.
We’ve fostered lots and lots of teenagers, and we’re still in touch with many and we have become grandparents to the children of one of them. We still get calls from them asking ‘how do you make that shepherd’s pie?’ or ‘how do you make that pastry?’ We’ve had some foster children for ten to 13 years, some are overnight placements and we still provide respite for other carers.
Fostering is about giving stability and a normal life to children and young people. For some it’s about working with their parents and getting them back home. There are always challenges, always things to learn and it is always rewarding. It also helps to have a sense of humour.
Melvyn and I are lucky to have our home and our own family and we have always wanted to help other children and young people who don’t have these things.
We once fostered a 17-year-old girl with her own baby and we took her to the seaside and she wanted a bucket and spade and a fishing net to use on the beach just like other children because she had never had that.
We still play cricket and build sandcastles and go to the beach with our foster children and young people because we can see how much pleasure they get from the smallest things of our daily life.
Hilary and Melvyn also support other foster carers and help to run foster care support groups and meetings.
You are never on your own as a foster carer. The local authority is there to support and give advice and there are always other foster carers to talk to and swap experiences.
The couple have been specialist foster carers for the last 15 years which means they take on children and young people with particular challenges such as physical and mental disability or emotional difficulties. Hilary added: “People also think you can never be a foster carer when you are older, but you have more time, more patience and more understanding to help these young people through.”
It is the dedication of foster carers like Hilary and Melvyn that has led to North Yorkshire being recognised as a beacon of good practice nationally in the long-term support it gives to children in care. The county has twice the national average of care leavers going on to university and a higher proportion participating in education, training or employment when compared with similar local authorities.
County Councillor Tony Hall, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service said:
Foster carers perform vital work in turning lives around for children and young people in our care system – a stable and loving environment to grow up in makes every difference”, “We hope the example of dedicated foster carers like Hilary and Melvyn will encourage more people to consider following in their footsteps. We do not underestimate the challenges of this work but we know that the rewards are very great indeed.
Carers in North Yorkshire receive support and training, and a weekly allowance which matches the Fostering Network recommended rate.
For information about becoming a foster carer and to find out about our information events around the county go to www.northyorks.gov.uk/fostering or call Fostering North Yorkshire on 0800 054 6989.