Faith & Life, World

600 children, 56 years

October 13, 2021

Robaird O’Cearbhaill 

 “Take care of them, take care of their hearts, their joys, their hopes.” This is what Pope Francis, talking about children, told parents in Milan in 2017. An inspiring couple seem to have done that for over 600 kids and were highly praised by English social services.

Pauline and Roger Fitter have recently retired after an inspiring  56 years of fostering 620 children in Southern England. 

A local government press release about their admirable caring career spurred UK newspapers, the BBC, the NY post, and Catholic website Aleteia, to follow up.

Pauline said she remembers the names of all of them and their photographs and is attached to all of them.“Each child leaves their own mark,” she said. “They lived as part of the family. If we’ve done our job well, then they go on to a new life. We liked and loved all our children but you know you have to let them go.”

She was a children’s nurse first and wanted to look after children from the age of five. Another side to that empathy was missing her father until that age. 

“I  was born in 1940, during the  war (WW2), and I didn’t see my father for the first five years of my life – but I also knew a lot of my friends’ fathers never came back at all.”

Pauline began fostering when she felt sorry for parent-less children. “I decided as early as 19 that I wanted to look after children who didn’t have mummies or daddies – I knew I wanted to stop as many as I could from becoming institutionalized.” 

Pauline and Roger, a private forestry consultant, began fostering in 1965. First was a three day old baby, but it was followed by more. “Almost immediately after that first child we had five new born babies in one year, one after the other, which meant a lot of night feeds at two in the morning and not much sleep.”

Pauline said she did not often cry when the children left but the last one was “especially hard, because I knew no more children were coming to replace him. I usually strip the bed, remake the room and get ready for the next.”

While always having a house full of kids to look after, they had four more of their own, adopted one more, and have eleven grandchildren. 

The couple’s work was highly praised by Daniel Ruaux, Assistant Director of (local) Children Services, describing them as “amongst the most caring and loving foster parents I have had the privilege to meet.” “Their commitment and nurture to help our children reach their potential is extraordinary and so very inspirational. Their love and devotion has changed and influenced the lives of over 600 children.” (Photo: Irish Mirror)