A RETIRED couple have just become foster carers for the first time.

Retired publicans Bob Baker, 80, and Janet Baker, 74, of Redcar, were already giving a home to teenagers leaving care, as part of the council’s Supported Lodging programme.

Now they’ve started looking after younger children as foster carers and are urging other retired people to consider both fostering and supported lodging.

A special online recruitment event for people considering fostering will be held on tomorrow (Thursday) at 7pm.

Janet, who still works part-time, explained she and Bob ran the now closed The Angler’s Rest Inn in Glaisdale, near Whitby, for 15 years. She said there were advantages of being an older person giving time and a home to teenagers.

She said: “I think you have a bit more patience. We have four children and five grandchildren – so we’ve done it all, really. You have an idea of what the challenges will be.

“You do have to have a medical and be able to get out and about, but the key thing is just being there for them. Age is not a barrier to giving these young people some help. Our own children are up and grown and away – so there is the space in the home which I’m sure other retired people will identify with.

“One thing which has been a big challenge is the Covid pandemic. You have teenagers from all sorts of backgrounds who just don’t understand that they must follow the rules, they want to be out. So there are challenges but there’s a very satisfying side too which easily outweighs it.”

Bob, who only retired as a relief pub manager at the beginning of the first lockdown last year, explained they had been part of Supported Lodgings - a scheme where people receive financial support for providing a room for up to three years for young people who are leaving care.

“That gave us a lot of experience,” he said. “We had two Eritrean teenagers with us, a long way from home with very little English and that had its challenges, as you can imagine. But they were keen to get to college and they’re both doing well now. You get a big sense of reward. We had another young man who had had a hard time but is now flying in his apprenticeship - we were sent word he was doing well. It’s a great feeling.”

Janet, who said the couple currently have both a 14-year-old fostered boy and an 18-year-old man in the house, stressed that fostering was very different from Supported Lodging with a longer checking period. “It can take a while, but the good side is you learn exactly what is needed and you develop these important relationships with people in the council who will be providing support and advice as you go on.”

Bob recalled the day they were finally approved as foster carers towards the end of last year. “We were approved in the morning and we had a call to take in a young man for foster care placed with us very quickly, already lined up, which shows there is a real, sometimes quite urgent need.

“It is challenging - there’s no point pretending it’s all easy. But, at the same time, it’s so rewarding.”

Bob explained that the couple take in rescue dogs from Romania, which some of the young people enjoy. “The dogs have been looking for a safe home, too, and some of the young people have a real bond with them.

“We’re just happy to have this safe home and to help.”

Councillor Alison Barnes, Cabinet Member for Children, said: “Well done to Bob and Janet and to all our amazing foster carers. They are all making a hugely positive contribution to the lives of young people, creating a difference both now and for their future. As the couple show - age does not need to be a barrier. If you can provide a safe and nurturing home environment, you could also help. Why not log on to our recruitment event and find out more?”