Gloria and her husband Henry started fostering local teenagers in 1990 and, ever since, have looked after youngsters for spells ranging from a week to seven or eight years.
The Northolt couple had their own family but decided they wanted to do something to help. After initially offering to take children at weekends, they were encouraged to foster and they have not looked back.
Gloria said: “Coincidentally, the council was looking for a team of foster carers for teenagers, and I thought ‘OK, that might fit in better with my work life’ However, you soon realise that teenagers have got their own ideas. “But somehow, between myself and my husband, it all worked. I retired early in 2004 and started fostering full-time.”
It has not always been plain sailing, but there is strong support behind foster carers and the rewards are significant.
“There are times when you think ‘this is a losing battle’ and ‘gosh, I’m not getting anywhere’,” said Gloria. “But there is a very good support network in the fostering team and it is very easy to pick up the phone to other carers and we help each other through any problems.
“You make the kids know it is their home, and gently get to know each other. They are often very bright but circumstances have got in the way of them achieving their potential. You need to look out for their abilities and nurture those rather than dwelling on the negatives. You can’t expect every child to be a model child and you need to be patient – they are individuals and they are who they are and not who you want them to be.”
The household is always a hive of activity, but there will come a time when Gloria and Henry have to retire from fostering. “We can’t go on indefinitely and there is always a need for people to take over’” said Gloria. “And I would tell anyone interested that it is not glamorous but it is extremely rewarding.”