By Jess Grieveson-Smith
After decades of working, most people long to take it easy when they retire and the kids have flown the nest.
But Pauline and Derek Leeder missed the hustle and bustle of family life – and decided to open their home to foster children – making them among Britain’s oldest foster carers.
At 83, Derek loves nothing more than getting up for the school run – and he and wife Pauline, 70, spend evenings helping with homework and their weekends building Lego and visiting play areas.
The married couple have six biological children of their own, but after they began to fly the nest, they began to long for the busy family life they had.
Pauline said: “We have fostered 13 children since we gave up running our own antique business.
“Our friends think we’re mad to do what we do.
“But it’s changed their views on how to look after children and the different ways they can come into care.
“We get so much pleasure out of helping others and we like creating this lovely family environment.
“We started off seven years ago, where we were approved foster carers for over two and a half years.
“There we were short term placements for two large siblings groups
“One consisted of five kids, starting from eight months to seven years and the second family had six siblings aged from seven months to 11 years.
“We tend to not think about the age as it doesn’t bother us or the children.
“A social worker once said that it was good for the children to have grandparent carers as the children saw their parents a lot.
“We then began taking kids on as respite for other carers but we also made an effort to take in sibling groups.
“We had one sibling group of two, aged three and four who we supported through to adoption.
“We’ve had a sibling group of three aged from a year to five years.
“We helped the youngest become adopted and we’re still working with the two remaining.”
Derek, who believes that fostering keeps the pair young and active added: “We’re always amazed at how quickly the children settle and accept this as their home.
“We always remember how the children came to us, and the difference they’ve made when they leave.
“We keep going because we know we can help make a difference, and provide a safe family environment.
“Without a doubt fostering is the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done.
“We’ve got loads of energy and fostering doesn’t limit us at all.
“In fact it’s made us less judgemental around other people’s situations, and more tolerant.
“Fostering is very full on and it means we’ve learnt to appreciate the time we have together when the kids are at school.”
The couple have no plans to end fostering as they claim it gives them a new lease of life.
“It’s showed us most that with the right support families can work together and change.”
Sue Purtill, account manager at Orange Grove Foster Care, said,” There is no upper age on fostering, and the couple are definitely amongst the oldest foster carers, with Derek likely to be the eldest.
“Generally we have a mixture of ages of foster carers which allows for diversity and enables us to match the appropriate needs of the children placed.
For more about fostering visit: https://www.orangegrovefostercare.co.uk/