Could this Milton Keynes couple be the oldest foster parents in the UK?

Pauline and Derek Leeder
Pauline and Derek Leeder

Most people like to take it easy when they retire and their children have flown the nest - but not this Milton Keynes couple.

Derek and Pauline Leeder, who missed the hustle and bustle of family life, decided to open their home to foster children – making them among UK’s oldest foster carers.

At 83, Derek loves nothing more than getting up for the school run – and he and wife Pauline, 70, spend evenings helping with homework and their weekends building Lego and visiting play areas.

The married couple have six biological children of their own, but after they flew the nest, the pair began to long for the busy family life they had.

Pauline said: “We have fostered 13 children since we gave up running our own antique business.

“Our friends think we’re mad to do what we do.

“But it’s changed their views on how to look after children and the different ways they can come into care.

“We get so much pleasure out of helping others and we like creating this lovely family environment."

The couple have been approved foster carers with Orange Grove for over two and a half years, but started fostering seven years ago.

Derek, who believes that fostering keeps the pair young and active added: “We’re always amazed at how quickly the children settle and accept this as their home.

“We always remember how the children came to us, and the difference they’ve made when they leave.

“And we keep going because we know we can help make a difference, and provide a safe family environment.

“Without a doubt fostering is the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done.

“We’ve got loads of energy and fostering doesn’t limit us at all.”

The couple have no plans to end fostering as they claim it gives them a new lease of life.

“It’s showed us that with the right support families can work together and change.”

Sue Purtill, registered manager at Orange Grove Foster Care, said, "There is no upper age on fostering, and the couple are definitely amongst the oldest foster carers, with Derek likely to be the eldest.

“Generally we have a mixture of ages of foster carers which allows for diversity and enables us to match the appropriate needs of the children placed.

For more about the couple, their video can be found at https://www.orangegrovefostercare.co.uk/fostering-in-bedford/