The Young family is made up of Jeanette (58), Glyn (60) and their three daughters, Aythya (24), Mairi (22) and Salili (14).
Jeanette and Glyn met at Edinburgh Zoo while they were working with the primates, and the bird section together. Jeanette from Scotland and Glyn the south of England, the couple moved to Jersey in the 1980s as Glyn had gained employment at Durrell Zoo which is prestigious in their field of expertise. Jeanette followed shortly after also securing a role within the zoo. Jeanette stopped working when the couple’s daughters were born and Glyn was promoted to become the Head of the Bird Department.
For them, fostering was a natural path to take. “My parents fostered for a short time,” explains Jeanette. “They even adopted one of the children and I have an adoptive sister.”
The first time the Young family fostered, the couple’s daughters were only toddlers. “They didn’t know anything else,” says Jeanette. “They were very important in the process. They had live-in playmates and they were so good the whole time. I don’t know if it is in their nature to be tolerant, maybe that’s why we became foster carers, but they had to share their parents and never said anything about it. They are amazing ambassadors for foster care.”
Through the years, the family has welcomed children of all ages. Some were with them for only a couple of days, but others stayed for a few weeks, months or even years. For the past five years, the couple has been looking after two girls on a “long term placement.” “They are with us until they don’t want to be or until they are independent,” explains Jeanette.
The Young’s who can take up to four children at a time offer short-term, long-term, emergency and short break placements.
‘We just get a thrill out of letting children have a childhood again.’ Mrs Young, mother to Aythya (24), Mairi (22) and Salili (14) said.
‘We get a lot back. We get satisfaction and fulfilment. You don’t always get things back from the children – that’s when the altruism comes in.’
Mr Young (60), head of birds at the Zoo, said: ‘You have to assume that most of the children come from a slightly chaotic background. It is quite nice to show people normality.
‘It’s not like we’re not chaotic, but we’re chaotic in a different way. It’s good because when they grow up we have given them the opportunity to know that it can be different, that families can function. We like to have one rule that we try not to break and that is that we all sit round the table for dinner.”
Jeanette, who still keeps in contact with a number of the children they cared for, admits that at times it can be tough but say they have never regretted their decision and urged more Islanders to sign up to foster.
‘After 20 years we can look back and say that it is great but there are times while you’re doing it that it is difficult,’ Mrs Young said.
‘It has taken a long time to realise but they’re not giving you a bad time. It’s not personal. They do tell you sometimes that you are horrible, but they’re just voicing bad feelings. Sometimes it’s a cry for help. That is where we get the additional support from the foster team to go on training courses such as The Solihull course which teaches you about children who have suffered trauma and how to deal with it in a positive way.
‘A lot of people get worried about the impact it could have on their own children but mine are better people because of that experience.’
Sarah Wakeham, supervising social worker at Fostering and Adoption Jersey, said that there are currently 28 foster carers in the Island.
‘We need to double that,’ she said. ‘There is a desperate need for carers in Jersey. We need a bigger pool of carers to give other carers a break. If we got a bigger list of carers it would mean we could be more flexible and place children with carers who are the most suitable.’
After 20 years fostering, the couple is not looking to stop anytime soon. Glyn says: “It’s been very nice to see the reaction of the children that are with us. It’s not always been positive perhaps, not always been perfect but certainly what it is is brilliant.”
Jeanette adds: “You get back seeing a child flourish. I really like children to achieve their potential, I think it’s a crime if a child doesn’t have the chance to achieve what they are capable of. To see develop trust in adults is the biggest reward because from trust you can then have fulfilment and expand. If you don’t trust the world you can’t go out there and do what you are capable of.”
With the Fostering and Adoption Team always on the look out for more families to join their ranks, Jeanette would like to convince anyone who is thinking about the idea of fostering to make the first step. “There are so many children in need, people are always surprised,” she says. “There is a lot to get out of it, that is why we do it! If you have an inkling that you want to do it, I would say it is a very good sign. There must be something there that would make you a good foster carer, if you even thought about it.
“It is different for everyone and we all have individual journeys but you are able to show a child another way of life. You give them a bit more stability and consistency. Simple things like sitting around the table or going out for an activity, which some have never done. You are able to show them that Jersey is much bigger and therefore change their outlook.”
Anyone interested in changing a child’s life is encouraged to reach out to the foster care recruitment line on +44 (0) 1534 443970.