NOT content with bringing up eight of her own children, Jenny Barney has taken in more than 50 foster children from across Oxfordshire.
She is one of Oxfordshire’s 293 dedicated foster carers and she and husband John have taken in dozens of children in the past 17 years.
Now she is urging others to take on the role as part of Foster Care Fortnight, which began on Monday.
Mrs Barney, who takes in children in the Oxford area as a full time job, said it is a hugely rewarding experience.
The couple look after children of all ages, including many teenage mothers and their babies.
The 60-year-old, who lives in the Oxford area, said: “Children come with a lot of complex needs and it is going to be challenging. But you have got to remember you can always ask for help and there is always support there.”
Mrs Barney took up fostering at a friend’s suggestion and said: “Only three of our kids were still at home at the time and all our children have always been fantastic about it and have always accepted the children who come in.
“We’ve had children stay in an emergency for just a night but in other cases we’ve had someone who was meant to be here a week and stayed four years.
“The first boy we had was 10 years old, the same age as my son, and he stayed three and a half years before he went to live with his grandmother.
“We speak to him frequently and see him about once a year now.”
She added: “One girl who stayed with us for four years went off to university and is now a theatre practitioner so we are very proud of what she has achieved.
“No matter how long children are with us, any milestone they reach is always a rewarding feeling.”
Maria White, from Oxfordshire County Council’s fostering team, said: “Fostering is a way of working as part of a team, in your local community, to help turn children’s lives around.
“Specialist training and support is given, carers receive an allowance and in some instances an additional fee. All you need is a desire to help children reach their full potential.”
An information evening on fostering will take place tonight from 6.30pm to 8pm at County Hall, New Road, Oxford.
For more information, visit oxfordshire.gov.uk/fostering or call 0800 7835724.
Who needs a home?
Children of all ages need foster parents for short- and long-term care, including:
Teenagers – about half of children in care are 12 years and older.
Sibling groups who need to be placed together.
Babies and toddlers who need to be placed with carers who are at home full-time.
Disabled children – who need placing with people with skills and experience to care for a wide range of disabilities.
Carers are paid fees like £168 a week for children aged up to two, rising to £276 a week for 16- to 18-year-olds.
Extra costs for spending like mileage and presents are also available.