A dedicated couple who have cared for around 100 children are retiring after nearly a quarter of a century of fostering.

Jenny and John Barney became foster carers in 1998 but never believed their journey would last for 23 years.

The Kidlington couple, who have three placements at a time, will now be able to enjoy their retirement knowing every one of the young people they fostered was given security and a chance to build confidence after a difficult start to life.

READ MORE: Abingdon couple given MBEs after 43 years of fostering

Mrs Barney said she has welcomed children into her home for many different reasons from a relationship breakdown or a child having run away to something as simple as a parent going into hospital.

She said: “It’s different every time, it’s not always that the parents are doing anything wrong.

“Recently we took on the role of ‘mockingbird hub carers’, providing a satellite hub for other carers by offering support and relief when needed. We still play a big part in the lives of many of the children we’ve cared for.”

She said the start of the placement can be “a bit hectic but it’s about trying to settle them in. For a little kiddy out of their home it’s very traumatic but you get to know them, get them into a nice pattern. Children do settle.”


A different approach is obviously required depending on the child’s age.

Mrs Barney said: “It’s about trying to engage with the child. Teenagers would not thank you for taking them out somewhere, they want to be alone. But with younger children I take them to the park or the wildlife park. Children are very easily distracted at a younger age. Teenagers are a bit more difficult.

“We had a phase of having a lot of teenage girls and they are quite easy once they realise that you are going to be there. They don’t want a lot – just someone to trust.”

When the time comes for the child to leave, Mrs Barney said a planned approach is needed.

READ MORE: Oxfordshire County Council searches for more foster parents

“If they’ve been here a long time we move them on in a planned way with introductions to foster carers or even adopters.

“We know the child on a day to day basis so we would perhaps meet in the park for an hour and then they eventually would take them off.

“We do miss them but you can’t keep getting affected. The way we deal with it is by thinking, hopefully they are moving on to a permanent family where they will be happy, and we look on it in a positive way.”

Now the couple, who have sometimes looked after a child for years, are encouraging others to think about becoming foster carers.


Mrs Barney said: “It is so much more than simply giving young people a roof over their heads. We gave each child a perspective on things and helped build positivity.”

Over the past 23 years Mr Barney has run his own fencing company while Mrs Barney used any spare time to get involved in broader aspects of fostering. She was a carer co-ordinator, offering support to other carers through support groups or one-to-ones.

She was also chair of the Oxfordshire Foster Care Association (OFCA) for many years and worked tirelessly, organising the annual pantomime in Oxford for foster families.

She also sat on the corporate parenting panel, which provided an opportunity for her to speak on behalf of foster carers across the county.

READ MORE: Christine Kitashima MBE: 27 years and still fostering

And as if that wasn’t enough, she was also editor of the OFCA newsletter.

But a major part of Mrs Barney’s work was with the Children in Care Council where she ensured children's voices were heard and that their achievements were celebrated.

She said: “Fostering changed our lives and gave us the feel-good opportunity to change many young lives too.

“We want to share our experiences to inspire others to consider becoming foster carers. It’s extremely rewarding – knowing you are making such a positive difference to every child you look after.”

Councillor Steve Harrod, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Children and Family Services, said: “Jenny and John have made an incredible difference to so many young lives over nearly a quarter of a century. On behalf of so many young people – thank you, Jenny and John. You have been inspirational.”

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