William and Jean Foster married in 1982 and made the selfless decision to open their home to foster children the very next year. They lived up to their surname and truly found their calling as foster parents. Thirty-four years on, the dedicated British couple has provided a safe haven for 186 children in need.
Despite their advancing ages, William, 82, and Jean, 74, show no signs of slowing down and call it “the best job in the world.” They are still active foster parents and are currently caring for two babies, one aged 10 months and the other 15 months.
The Fosters have taken care of a number of children with complex disabilities and medical conditions but claim that the work is always rewarding, although “not easy.”
“[W]e really love it,” Jean told Caters News Agency. “You make sacrifices, make the children feel welcome and a part of the family, and that’s what it’s all about.”
In fact, the couple, who set up home in Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England, even adopted two of their foster children. Their adopted daughter Naomi, 34, now has four children of her own.
Initially, Naomi was only supposed to stay with the Fosters for a weekend; five years later, she had become part of the family.
“[Naomi] had been with us for such a long time that we didn’t want to see her go,” said Jean, “so we applied to adopt her and was accepted.”
Meanwhile, Naomi didn’t shy away from praising her parents’ selfless service. “They’re amazing parents,” said Naomi, “loving, caring, and so fun. We had lots of animals and I had lots of fun growing up, I also met so many people throughout my childhood, so many kids to play with as I grew up.”
“Foster care is so important,” Naomi said, “and these two have just been amazing since day one.”
William and Jean have seven of their own children, two adopted children, and a rapidly expanding extended family, including 15 great-grandchildren. The couple is also conscientious when it comes to keeping in touch with their foster children.
Jean explained that a lot of the couple’s previously fostered children were adopted after their time with the Fosters. Today, Jean said, they are doing “fantastically well.” Both William and Jean agreed that the rewards garnered from fostering make it the best job in the world.
“I suppose I love all of it,” William said of foster parenting. “The only problem is when they go, we’re used to cooking big dinners, so we make all this food and realize there’s nobody to eat it all.”
After dedicating over three decades to helping young people, William and Jean were each rewarded with an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the summer of 2019—a top-tier British order that rewards efforts in the arts, sciences, and charity work.
For Jean, the awards came as a complete shock. “Bill and I both got letters come through and I looked at it and thought it was a con or something,” she said, speaking to the Derby Telegraph. “I said to Bill, ‘This can’t be real, rip it up and put it in the bin.’”
The letters, however, were legitimate; the Fosters had been nominated by their daughter. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s such an honor,” Jean said of receiving the awards from London’s Buckingham Palace.
Back at home, parental duties abound, but the Fosters speculate that post-retirement age is the very best time to be a foster parent.
“[Y]ou have all the time in the world to give to the kids,” Jean said, adding that the children keep them young.
“We thoroughly enjoy what we’re doing, we love children, and our reward comes when they come over and leave smiling,” she said.