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Couple who fostered 620 kids in 56 years pass on their golden rules of parenting

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Pauline and Roger Fitter have lived their lives trying to make those of the children they have fostered better. The couple have fostered a huge 620 children in 56 years

Pauline and Roger Fitter have fostered 620 children in 56 years

If you felt a pang of emotion waving your child off to start the new school year, spare a thought for Pauline and Roger Fitter who hugged 620 children goodbye in 56 years as foster parents.

The extraordinary couple tended to newborns, toddlers and teenagers while raising five children of their own, one of whom they adopted.

Pauline, 81, never forgot anyone’s name, kept photos and birthday records of each child and considered every foster kid as important as her own.

She says: “Each child leaves their own mark. They lived as part of the family.

“If we’ve done our job well then they go on to a new life and don’t need us. Quite a few send us Christmas cards.



The couple have been fostering children for 56 years
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Image:

Steve Reigate Daily Express)




“We liked and loved all our children but you know you have to let them go.”

The couple retired as foster parents earlier this year and now their four-bedroom house is quiet while a pond stands at the end of their garden to replace a trampoline, swings and slide.

It has given them a rare opportunity to reflect on their experience.

They will never forget their joy when a child who would not let anyone touch them asked for a goodnight kiss, and the happy sound of shy kids singing and laughing.







But as every parent knows, looking after children is not always easy.

Hair-raising moments include the time a little girl, aged only seven, started a fire in a waste paper basket.

Pauline says: “She wanted to see if the fire alarm would go off.

“We rushed downstairs and managed to put the fire out. We then had to have a long talk with her about fire safety and asked where she got the matches from?”

Experience has taught Pauline and Roger, 86, from Haslemere, West Sussex, smooth ways of dealing with the roughest parenting situations.



Pauline and Roger looking at photographs of some of the 600 children they have fostered
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Image:

Steve Reigate Daily Express)




Each child was given new clothes and bedding to help them feel welcome.

Pauline never sewed name tags on to clothes to ensure they did not feel institutionalised, and instead recalled who owned each item of clothing.

A second shower and toilet cut long bathroom queues while the same dishes were served to all at mealtimes.

And if any child needed to be disciplined, time-out was used. But jealousy was often harder to resolve.

Pauline says: “Sometimes there would be a child who was jealous of our own children.

“If a toy was taken we would explain to our own children why they did it and explain to the foster child they didn’t have to do that. Our own children were very good about it all.”

Pauline, originally from Yorkshire, used to work as a nurse and vowed to do all she could to help children.

She says: “I was working with babies from six weeks old but they became institutionalised very quickly because different people handed them all the time.



Pauline gave each child new bedding the help them feel welcome
(

Image:

Steve Reigate Daily Express)




“I decided as early as 19 I wanted to look after children who didn’t have mummies or daddies and promised myself when I married I’d foster children.”

After the death of her school friend, who was married to Roger, she moved to help look after his two children and intended to stay for a month.

The couple married in 1965 and fostered their first child, a baby boy, later that year.

Pauline sobbed when the 10-week-old was taken to form part of another family.

She says: “Roger said, ‘If this is what fostering is like, we are not doing it again’.”

But they would go on to have another 619 new arrivals.





The most children they have ever looked after at one time was 11, which included their own. They put up tents to squeeze them all in.

The couple, who have cared for children from as far away as Belarus and Lithuania, always made sure they kept in touch with foster kids wherever they eventually settled.

Pauline says: “I would always send them postcards when they left us so they knew they weren’t forgotten.

“One lad who was about 13 when he left us somehow remembered two years later it was going to be our silver wedding anniversary and he came over with his parents to see us.

“We couldn’t believe he’d remembered and it blew us away.



Children who have gone through the house often remember the couple years later
(

Image:

Steve Reigate Daily Express)




“One boy who was in the army came to us every weekend before going on to fight in the Falklands. He wrote extraordinarily detailed postcards about what he’d seen.”

Despite making a difference to so many children’s lives, Pauline and Roger, who still works as a private forestry consultant, insist they have done nothing special.

Pauline insists: “Absolutely not special. We feel we’ve lived our lives well with a purpose. We have carried on longer than most but still enjoyed it to the very last child.”




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