Dedicated Kidlington foster carers retire after looking after over 100 children

Jenny and John encourage people to think about fostering after caring for more than 100 children themselves.   

When Jenny and John Barney took the decision to become foster carers in 1998, they never envisaged their journey would last for 23 years, and that they would retire with the satisfaction of having cared for more than 100 children.

The Kidlington couple will now be able to enjoy their retirement knowing every one of the young people they fostered was welcomed into their household with the same warmth and enthusiasm, giving security and a chance to build confidence after a difficult start to life. Now they are encouraging others to think about becoming foster carers.

Jenny said: “Foster caring is so much more than simply giving young people a roof over their heads. Some of the children stayed with us only a few days; others for a number of years. We gave each child a perspective on things. Helped build positivity.

“Fostering changed our lives and gave us the feel-good opportunity to change many young lives too. We want to share our experiences to inspire others to consider becoming foster carers. It’s extremely rewarding – knowing you are making such a positive difference to every child you look after.

“We’ve done all kinds of fostering, including taking in children during emergencies. Recently we took on the role of ‘mockingbird hub carers’, providing a satellite hub for other carers by offering support and relief when needed. We still play a big part in the lives of many of the children we’ve cared for.

“While John ran his own a fencing company, I used any spare time to get involved in broader aspects of fostering. I was a carer coordinator, offering support to other carers. I facilitated many support groups and offered one to one support to carers when they needed it.

“And I was a chair of the Oxfordshire Foster Care Association (OFCA) for many years, providing a link between foster carers and the fostering service. The association supports fostering families by organising events and days out.”

Jenny worked tirelessly at OFCA, organising the annual pantomime in Oxford for foster families. She also sat on the corporate parenting panel, which provided an opportunity for her to speak on behalf of foster carers across the county. And was editor of the OFCA newsletter.

A major role of Jenny’s was her work with the Children in Care Council where she worked with many young people to ensure their voices were heard and listened to; and that their achievements were celebrated.

Councillor Steve Harrod, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services, said: “Jenny and John have made an incredible difference to so many young lives over nearly a quarter of a century. Jenny’s additional work and experience has also helped fostering evolve to make an even bigger difference to the children who benefit from these dedicated carers. On behalf of so many young people – thank you Jenny and John. You have been inspirational.”

Oxfordshire County Council is looking to recruit more foster carers across the county. For more information about what the role involves, details of the support and fees, and how to apply email fostering@oxfordshire.gov.uk phone 0800 783 5724, or visit the website www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/fostering