Hemel Hempstead foster parents on the 'rewarding benefits' of a new family
Spending time with loved ones is one of the most important aspects of Christmas.
But for some children and young adults in Hertfordshire, the greatest present they could be given is a loving new family.
Hertfordshire County Council is calling on people to consider whether fostering might be the way to fill an extra space that may be missing in their homes and their hearts.
Spreading festive cheer for the 37th consecutive year will be Reg East and his wife Joan.
They started fostering in the Christmas period all those years ago after Joan heard of a mistreated baby who was being kept at the hospital.
Determined to help in some way, the couple quickly applied and qualified to become foster parents, and gave the baby girl a new home.
Nearly four decades on, and the Hemel Hempstead couple currently have two boys, aged 14 and 16, and will welcome another 15-year-old lad in the New Year.
Hundreds of children later, and they still find it an inspiring calling.
“We feel very sorry for the kids that have not had the privileges that our own three boys had, and we try to give them that. They miss out on so much, and we are still finding out what they’ve missed.
“It’s very important for these children to have people to spend time with, particularly at this time of the year.
“It’s one of the best times of the year, and they love it. It’s the simple things, like decorating the house or going to the carols.
“Many of them haven’t had what you would call a normal upbringing. We just want them to fit into the family.”
In Hertfordshire there are 835 children and young people in care and many live with foster carers.
Each month, the county council receive an average of 55 requests for new foster placements, with more requests to place older children (aged 10+), sibling groups and those with more complex needs.
Reg says: “I think the kids that have come away from their parents need a bit of tender loving care, and for us to show an interest in what they want to do.
“The demand for foster parents is growing. We find today that it’s more children who have been neglected.
“When we first started it tended to be physical or sexual abuse, now it’s more drugs and alcohol. They play quite a big role now, and it’s the children who suffer.
“Joan and myself were thinking of retiring three or four years ago, but we got talked out of it.”
So what would Reg say to anyone who is thinking of fostering, but has yet to make the transition to actually doing it.
“You get a lot of satisfaction from helping these youngsters, and giving them a family life,” said Reg.
“It’s just inspiring, and that’s what keeps me and my wife going. It’s like we have another family.”
For more information on fostering and how you could help, please visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/somethingmissing