Close Menu

You’re Never Too Old to Foster – Carole and John’s Story

Friday 31 May 2024

Carole and John are in their early 70s and, since 2011, they have been fostering. John said “There is no greater excitement than having a teenager living in your house. Technically, I suppose, we are old and should maybe be thinking about retirement but fostering enriches our lives, it keeps us active and alive.”

The idea of becoming foster carers had been in their minds for many years. This is their second marriage and both Carole and John had discussed fostering with their previous partners who were not keen to proceed. John explained:

“I’d always thought it would be a wonderful thing to do. I discovered in middle age that my dad was fostered and it really helped him. I worked for many years as a vehicle inspector. I remember one of the lads saying one day that the radio in one of the cars wasn’t working. It was just a fuse and when he replaced it the radio came on. There was an ad on there asking for fostering carers with Pathway Care. It immediately grabbed my attention. They are a private agency offering Therapeutic Fostering which was something Carole and I were both interested in. It recognises that caring for foster children is different to caring for birth children and you need different skills.”

The couple was living in Northamptonshire at the time and Pathway Care (which later became Fostering Solutions) was local to them. They applied and were approved, initially as respite foster carers. Carole said:

“We wanted to dip our toe in the water and respite fostering meant we could do that. I was working as a nurse at the time and John was still working as a vehicle inspector. As respite carers, we had regular children who would come to us for a few days to give their carer a break. One of the girls who used to come was about 13-14. Her foster carer decided to go back to fostering for the Local Authority so we transferred to full-time fostering and she came to live with us, which was great. John gave up his job to become her full-time foster carer and I carried on working 20 hours a week as a nurse. My daughter was living at home at the time, although due to be leaving for university very soon.”

The young woman stayed with Carole and John for five years before choosing to move back to be closer to her birth family when she was 17. When she left, Carole and John relocated to Somerset and transferred from Fostering Solutions to the National Fostering Group. One of their foster children – another young woman in her teens – moved with them.

The transition to a new foster agency meant Carole and John had to repeat the ‘Introduction to Fostering’ training that they’d done seven years earlier. Carole said:

“We grumbled about it a bit at the time but actually it was good to refresh our skills and we found it helpful.”

Their third foster child was a 15-year-old who was pregnant when she first arrived. Carole and John supported her through her pregnancy and helped to arrange some extra tuition for her so she could sit her GCSEs. Carole was with her during the birth and, afterwards, the couple fought hard for her to be allowed to keep the child. The young woman was assessed at a Mother and Baby Unit and was able to keep the baby boy, who turns five this year. Carole and John were delighted with the outcome and are still in contact with her.

John said: “This is where the training really comes in. It helped us handle challenging situations and we were able to provide the stability she needed for those crucial few months when she was pregnant.”

Carole agreed: “She blossomed. She asked if she could join the library while she was here and we used to hear her upstairs in her room reading stories to her unborn baby. Caring for her was one of the biggest highlights of our time as foster carers.”

Since then, they have returned to doing respite foster care as it gives them greater flexibility and allows them to continue supporting a range of different foster children. The couple was invited by the National Fostering Group to go along to the Glastonbury Festival in 2023 to help staff its stand there and talk to would-be foster carers. Carole said:

“We didn’t expect to be doing that at our age. I absolutely loved it. John struggled a bit with the noise and the toilets! We spoke to lots of people and we told them ‘if you’re not absolutely sure, you don’t have to go headlong into it. Start with respite fostering like we did’. Respite foster carers play such an important role because, sometimes, having a break can be enough to stop a placement from breaking down. It’s not the children’s fault. So often, they’ve had such terrible experiences in their lives. You just have to have patience and love. And you need to support one another and be consistent.

“There’s no right or wrong way to foster. Each foster child is different and you’ll do things differently each time but once you know where that child is and what might be going on for them, you do your best to help them heal. You’re never on your own with it, we still go to training and support groups and talk to our supervising social worker whenever we need it. A lot of people think they can’t foster because maybe they are too old or they are working. But we slotted into it, it fits around our life and we still love it.”


If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, try our Can I Foster? tool, which answers common questions about suitability to foster, based on a personalised Q and A style format. The outcome might surprise you! If you’re ready to chat with one of our fostering advisors, contact your local team.

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.