Kirkcaldy woman Helen McConnell is proof that age is no barrier to fostering.
Helen (70) started fostering with her husband almost 30 years ago and the couple have cared for more than 20 children.
She is encouraging people to become carers in the wake of Fostering Fortnight, the UK’s biggest foster care awareness campaign, which was held at the end of last month.
She has shared her story in the hope that she can inspire others to consider fostering – no matter what age they are.
Helen has been a TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) Scotland foster carer since 2015. She said: “I remember how nervous and a little bit frightened we felt when we got our first placement – two siblings, aged two and four.
“Fortunately, we managed to meet our foster children before they moved in, which really helped. They were with us for three and a half years before they got adopted.
“Since then we have cared for more than 20 children, once we even cared for five siblings at the same time! Our last placement was a girl aged nine who lived with us until she became an independent young woman. We still support her whenever she needs us and she classes us as her parents.”
Helen said she still enjoys caring for youngsters and revealed that her own family is even thinking about fostering: “At the age of 70, I am still very much enjoying fostering young people,” she said.
“At present we have an 11-year-old foster daughter who came to us two and a half years ago and may well stay with us permanently.
“When we decided to foster we already had three children of our own. However, this never seemed to be a problem.
“Our children embraced our fostering all the way and I believe it made them realise how lucky they are.
“In fact, my daughter is considering becoming a foster carer herself in the future, even though she is already bringing up her own four children.”
She said it can be emotional when a placement ends. She continued: “It does pull at my heart strings, but there is always someone else waiting for your help. We try to keep in touch and support our foster children even after they move on. One of our former foster daughters just had a baby and we were so pleased to receive photos of her beautiful son. “She is still part of our lives and her adoptive parents became our very good friends.”
Helen said they have tried different fostering agencies but in the end chose TACT because they provided ‘exceptional support’ and made her feel valued.
She added: “Fostering is not easy, but there is no better satisfaction than seeing you have helped to make a positive difference in a child’s life.”
TACT is the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity and is always on the lookout for foster carers and adopters. To find out more about fostering and how you can get involved visit: www.tactcare.org.uk