AN “inspirational” couple from Poole are celebrating their 19th year as foster carers after caring for 12 children in that time.

Sarah*, 61 and Paul*, 64, first began fostering in 1998 after their two biological children left home for university.

Since then, they have been foster parents to 12 children, one of whom, Jack* was in their care for 15 years before moving out to live on his own when he turned 18.

Talking about his placement, Sarah said: “We were so sad to see Jack leave but we couldn’t be more proud of how far he has come. One thing that Jack has always said is: ‘I want to live my life; I don’t want to just exist’. He had a lot going against him, but we are so proud that he stayed in education to complete his GCSEs and we can see that he is living his life to the full.

“Staying in regular contact with our previous foster children is lovely for us and the children. We like to think that our support never ends.”

Today the couple are foster parents to two sisters. Molly*, 13, and Rosie*, 11, have been with Sarah and Paul for eight years.

“The girls love socialising with our grandchildren who are of similar ages to them. It’s great that they have friendships and loving relationships with their extended family whom we spend a lot of time with on holidays,” Sarah said.

She added: “We are extremely proud of how well Molly and Rosie are doing at home with us and in school. Supporting them and watching them grow into lovely young ladies is one of the most rewarding aspects of being foster parents.”

Sarah and Paul foster through independent fostering agency Five Rivers, which operates across Dorset and is calling for more people across Weymouth, Swanage and Dorchester to consider a career in foster care to stem the current shortfall of 480 foster carers in the area.

Nicci Willock, director of fostering services, said: “Sarah and Paul have been foster carers with us for an inspirational amount of time and act as great role models to those considering becoming a foster carer.

“Fostering takes a great deal of compassion, patience and selflessness, but can be immensely rewarding for both the foster carer and the foster child in need of care and a safe environment.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the foster children