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How fostering gave retired couple Brian and Jean a new lease of life

When Brian and Jean Adams were busy running a successful hotel in Blackpool thirty years ago, they never imagined spending their retirement years being ‘mum and dad’ for an entirely new family.

Brian, 69, and Jean, 62, juggle home-schooling with children’s trampoline parties and family holidays to Walt Disney World in Florida. Luckily, the busy couple wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Brian and Jean’s fostering journey 

The couple began their fostering journey with Barnardo’s when their birth son was 14 years old. “We discussed everything with him before we started the process”, Brian noted. “We’re very lucky that he has always been supportive.” 

Although the couple had spent most of their lives raising their son and running a family business, the idea of being a foster carer had never been far from Jean’s mind. “I had a friend whose younger sister was a foster child, and I’d always thought it was a wonderful thing to do,” she explains.  

“One day, I broke a glass, and I picked up a copy of a free local newspaper to put the broken shards in. There was a big advert in there from Barnardo’s looking for new foster carers. We knew it was meant to be.”  

Over the past 12 years, Brian and Jean have become experienced foster carers, welcoming nine children into their home. “I believe fostering has added ten years onto our lives,” said Brian.  

Because of fostering, I’m more passionate and enthusiastic about life than I’ve ever been.


Barnardo's foster carer

Currently, Brian and Jean look after two secondary school aged children. Their eldest has been with them for almost six years, and last year, they were delighted to take the children on their first holiday abroad to Florida.  

How Barnardo’s supported Brian and Jean to foster 

Following the decision to foster, Brian and Jean got started with their compulsory training and assessment, where they were supported by a team of dedicated social workers throughout. 

“We always knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Jean says. “You take the rough with the smooth, and you have to be prepared to work through it. You’ve got Barnardo’s behind you, and there’s a big support team around these children who you can go to for advice.”  

With Barnardo’s help, Brian and Jean had the support to complete their training and get started with their fostering journey.

It’s OK to have questions and worries [about fostering] because there’s always someone at Barnardo’s who will listen to you.


Barnardo's foster carer

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a single parent, or if you don’t own a home; with fostering there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. Brian and I are just normal people helping a few children find their way. I say if you’re still fit and healthy, what are you waiting for?” 

Creating a safe and loving home for children in care 

When their first foster child arrived on a short-term stay, Jean had already made up the bedroom in the child’s favourite colour, pink, with a matching teddy bear on the bed. “She was only with us for a few months, but she still keeps in touch,” Jean added. 

With years of experience behind them, Brian and Jean know that sometimes the children they care for may not have had the easiest start in life. Many foster children are recovering from trauma, and it can take time to build trust.

Children need stability. They need to know that you’re there for them, and it takes time for them to trust.


Barnardo's foster carer

"You have to remember that some of these children might’ve been looking after themselves or caring for younger siblings. Their concept of family life can be different," emphasised Jean.

I remember one child asked me whether they’d get to eat food every day.


Barnardo's foster carer

Some children aren’t having regular meals, or they’ve had to steal food, so they don’t go hungry. Another child said, ‘you’ll never hit me, will you?’ It makes you so emotional.”  

“It’s a powerful thing for a child to be able to share a problem with someone they can trust. We’re here to listen, and as soon as a child walks through our front door, they’re a part of our family” added Brian. 

The most rewarding parts of fostering 

Reflecting on their time as foster carers, Brian and Jean noted how rewarding fostering has been to their lives. 

There are lots of very important jobs in society, but we have found that for us, there is nothing more rewarding than helping a child, giving them opportunities, and to help them to reach their full potential.


Barnardo’s foster carer

One of the most rewarding parts of their fostering journey, Brain and Jean noted, was seeing the children thrive and step out of their comfort zones.  

They remember one child particularly fondly. “He loved to sing, and he won a role in the school musical,” Brian said. “Jean and I were sat on the front row both nights. He was incredible. I don’t know who was crying more – us, or the teachers.”  

After all these years, Brian and Jean are no strangers to goodbyes, either. In some cases, they’ve been delighted to see children reunited with their birth families, and in others, they’re proud to still be known as ‘mum and dad.’  

“Every child we’ve looked after on a long-term stay has kept in touch,” Brian adds. “We’re always here to help, as and when we’re needed. Fostering means so much to us because you’re helping a child on their way and giving them a chance.”  

You have a real chance to change these children’s lives.


Barnardo's foster carer

No signs of slowing down  

Brian and Jean show no signs of slowing down, with the couple planning to support their two foster children into adulthood, and are ready for more school trips, Xbox games and football matches.  

“Age is just a number and I wish we’d started fostering earlier in life. I’m learning all the time from the children and although we’ve decided to do this long-term, if you’re considering being a foster carer, there are lots of other options like short-term foster care, respite and emergency fostering”, Jean noted. 

People say to us, ‘I couldn’t do what you do’ – but why not? They’ve dealt with everything life has thrown at them so far, and people need to believe in themselves.” 

A man and a teenage boy fix a bicycle together

Become a foster carer

For over 100 years, Barnardo’s has changed hundreds of thousands of children’s lives for the better though our fostering services. Become a foster carer and be part of our story. Complete our online form or find details about alternative contact methods to start your journey. 

A woman with a child on her lap and another next to her, smiles.

Why foster with us? 

When you foster with us, we are with you every step of the way. Our expert and friendly staff are on hand to provide training and 24/7 support to all our carers. We also know financial support is important, especially in the current climate.

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Fostering process 

Deciding to foster is a big decision to make. But we’re here to help. Here, we answer some of the most common questions about how you become a foster carer.