Staffordshire Couple set to retire after four decades of fostering
Written by Jane Lythgoe on 20 September 2020
Staffordshire foster family, Gillian and Neville Howe are preparing to retire after almost 43 years of fostering.
The couple from Silkmore Lane in Stafford fostered their first child in 1977, an 18-month baby girl called Cheryl. The couple then went on to foster over 40 children as well as having three of their own children and adopting another.
Neville aged 76 and Gillian 74 put it all down to having patience and good communication.
Neville said: “Without a doubt fostering has been the best thing we’ve ever done in our lives. For me, seeing the children grow up to be kind successful young adults is an amazing feeling.
“Things have certainly changed since we started back in 1977 when the children were pretty much dropped off and you were left to get on with it. Now there’s much more support and training available to help which is really good.
“We are still in touch with some of the children we looked after and it’s always nice to hear how they are getting on. We still get regular calls too from them asking for advice on different things, so that’s nice and we’re always happy to help out. Being called ‘mum and dad’ also makes us very proud of what we mean to them.”
Gillian added: “Fostering has been part of our lives for so long now and I’m sure I’ll miss it. I’ve loved every minute, even the challenges. The only part I really struggled with was sometimes handing the children back after looking after them. This was the hardest thing for me but knowing the difference I had made to their lives made it all worthwhile.”
Jai Bradfield now aged 41 from Doxey in Stafford joined the family when he was 13. He was only supposed to be with them for 12 weeks, but he stayed until he was 18. He’s still in regular contact with them today.
Jai said: “Neville and Gill are amazing people and I don’t think I’d be where I am today without them.
“I had other short term foster placements growing up but when I arrived at Neville and Gillian’s house I knew that’s where I wanted to be. From the outset I got love, support and encouragement all the way. I still call them mum and dad, because that’s what they are to me and always will be.
“I’m 41 now and am married with six children, plus I have two businesses of my own to run. When I need any advice, whether about one of the children or something to do with the business, I won’t hesitate to give Neville a call. He’s always there to listen and to offer words of wisdom.”
19-year-old Andrew Banks joined the family when he was six years old and still lives with Neville and Gillian. Andrew, now 19 and training to be a car mechanic said: “Neville and Gillian have been so kind to me and I’m totally grateful for what they did. Not only did I have a loving family, which I never had before, but I got support and encouragement in every aspect of my life. I’ll never forget Neville’s words, ‘of course you can do it Andrew!’ And he was right.”
The couple’s retirement coincides with Staffordshire County Council’s Fostering service’s latest campaign to recruit a further 60 foster families over the next year.
Jonathan Price, Cabinet Member for Education and SEN at the authority said: “Neville and Gillian are an amazing couple who have helped change the lives of many children in their long career as foster carers. I would like to thank them for everything they have done and wish them well on their retirement.
“Fostering can be a hugely rewarding experience and you see how you make a real difference to children’s lives. It can be challenging at times but it has some wonderful moments and experiences as well. We’re always looking for more foster families, just like Neville and Gillian so if it is something you might be interested in then please get in touch with the team.”
People interested in becoming a foster carer can find out more at www.care4child.org or by calling 0800 1692061.