Loving couple embrace foster care experience

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For more than 30 years, Jane and Fred Knewstubbs have been welcoming foster children into their home with open arms.

When their phone rings in the middle of the night they know they are about to go on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, with some of Oamaru’s most vulnerable youths.

Long-term and short-term stays, caring for some of the most challenging and delightful children and teenagers, they have embraced more than 100 children as part of their family – all the while caring for their biological son Andrew.

They’ve experienced grief, love and laughter over the last 30 years, and while they are not in it for the recognition or reward, their efforts have been recognised with an Excellence in Foster Care Award.

The awards acknowledge and celebrate the extraordinary work of caregivers who open up their homes and hearts to New Zealand’s most vulnerable children and young people.

There are 10 awards available nationally each year, and each award covers all expenses including the presentation ceremony, meals, accommodation, entertainment and travel.

The awards ceremony will be held on Monday to kick start Fostercare Awareness Week, and will be held at Government House in Wellington.

“It’s not what we work towards, what we work towards is looking after children and making sure they are cared for,” Mr Knewstubbs said.

“We are very grateful though and we just think it’ll be lovely next week,” Mrs Knewstubbs said.

Caring for others has been a lifelong affair for Mr and Mrs Knewstubbs, but a passion for foster care started when they moved to Christchurch from Wellington and they heard from friends who were fostering for the Methodist Mission.

They have been fostering in Oamaru since they moved here about seven years ago, and say there’s no better feeling than watching those they have fostered get on the right track, gain employment and grow into well-adjusted adults.

“Seeing these young people achieve what we have taken for granted has been so gratifying and this has made our journey so worthwhile,” Mrs Knewstubbs said.

“We’ve had the most amazing journey, we’ve had lots of wonderful experiences, we’ve enjoyed it.

“Fred and I have been so richly blessed by those who have been part of our family.”

Their son Andrew has also been heavily involved with the foster children – forming special bonds with them over the years.

“Andrew formed a special bond with twins who spent many days in hospital… Andrew was in America finishing off his schooling when one of the twins passed away.

“He said ‘I am coming home as he is my brother’ and that made Fred and I feel so proud that we had all had the most amazing journey with these boys,” she said.

It’s not just up to Mr and Mrs Knewstubbs though – fostering is team work, with the carers, the social workers, police and the children – and that’s how you get results, they said.

They’re very grateful for the support they’ve received and the training that they have been provided with.

They would encourage anyone in a position to be a caregiver to apply and enjoy it how they have.

“That’s what we’d really like other people to do, it’s truly been lovely,” Mrs Knewstubbs said.

“It’s wonderful to be able to sit down and talk and remember a lot of these things.”

For more information on foster care call 03 904 2707 or toll free on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326459). Alternatively you can email Oamaru caregiver liaison social worker Karen Mosedale on karen.mosedale003@cyf.govt.nz

By Rebecca Ryan