THE end of an era has come for foster carers Jean and Ray Shone.
Having looked after more than 100 youngsters since they began fostering 42 years ago, the last children in their care have grown up.
But while Jean may be in her 70s, she still has a drive to look after children and young people – something she describes as “my life”.
She said: “I’ve enjoyed every minute. You have your ups and downs, but you have that with your own children, don’t you?
“When Ray and I first came into fostering we sat down and made the decision as a family, and my children have always been wonderful about fostering.”
Jean and Ray, from Shotton, are Flintshire Council’s longest serving foster carers.
Jean is proud that many of the children they have looked after now consider the couple as family.
“One of my boys went into the army and I went to his passing out parade. I said to him, ‘It would’ve been nice if your own family had been here’. And he replied,
‘You’re my family, and you’re here, so that’s everything’.
“Another boy was getting married, and he turned up on my doorstep on the day of his wedding. I said, ‘You should be in church, you shouldn’t be here!’.
“He put his hands on my shoulders and said ‘When I go to church today, I want to go through this door, because you gave me a home’.”
Jean and Ray were initially involved with general fostering but for the past 24 years they have dedicated their lives to caring for people with disabilities. Two of the
children they looked after in that time still live with them as adults.
In 1986, they became involved with a scheme offering short breaks to children with disabilities. Through this, Jean and Ray have worked with 14 families. Most
recently, they have been looking after Rebecca and Josh Matthews, and now the youngest, Josh, is 18.
Josh and Rebecca’s mother, Jane, said Jean and Ray had helped them enormously.
She said: “Over the years we have formed a wonderful relationship with them and they have become part of our family. We always say Jean is their other nana.
“They have been such a source of inspiration to us, and my husband and I now foster ourselves.”
Last year Jean and Ray received a Recognising Achievement award from the then First Minister, Rhodri Morgan. When they had been foster caring for 40 years they received a Long Service Award from Flintshire Council and Jean was also commended in the Wales Volunteer of the Year Awards 2008.
Jill Jones, from the council’s fostering team, said: “Jean and Ray are some of those wonderful people who it’s an honour and pleasure to know. Their home is so welcoming and their door is always open.
“They have touched so many lives, yet they don’t consider what they do as anything special.
“We are immensely proud and grateful of what they have achieved in over 40 years of caring.”
She added: “We always need new families to come forward to start their career in fostering and take the first step in filling the shoes of foster carers like Jean and Ray."
Jean would urge anyone thinking of a career in fostering to take the first step.
She said: “This work is so rewarding. I would say to anyone thinking of it, go for it, because it changed our lives.”
- For more information on fostering call 01352 702190 or go to www.flintshire.gov.uk/foster