“Apart from our age and having a small house, we didn’t know how to go about it,” said Elaine.
“Then I was flicking through a magazine and saw a page all in pink. It was Community Foster Care’s advert. I sent an email thinking nothing would happen and the next day we got a phone call.
“Someone from the agency came over for a chat. We signed up for a two-day assessment course and it went from there.
“We did have a few doubts through the training period - how would we cope if a child came to us with huge problems? Sometimes the paper work was a bit of a nuisance. But we took everything step by step until finally we were accepted.”
Caring for others wasn’t entirely new to the Dents: Richard’s sister Caroline was severely physically and mentally disabled and the couple had spent a lot of time looking after her before she died. They opened the door of their cosy cottage to their first cared-for child in March 2013. Elaine gave up her job as a team leader at the Co-Op in Corsham to become a full-time carer, whilst Richard continued to work as a groundsman at the local school.
“It was a bit of a roller coaster, but one year on, we see a completely different child with a lovely sense of humour and lots of charm. Seeing a child making and keeping friends for the first has made for a far happier child – and he makes us happy too.
“Children just want a safe, stable home life where they go to school, have decent food and clean clothes, as well as someone who can help them overcome problems.
“I’d like to think that if we’d had our own children, we’d have treated them in the same way.
“All three of us have had our ups and downs, but the good times definitely outweigh the bad.”
For Richard, growing up with two brothers and a severely disabled sister was good grounding.
“When it came to doing things as kids, our sister came first and we were limited as to what we could do. When you go out with a disabled child, people stare at you but it didn’t worry us. It taught us how to look at people in a different way - to be more accepting and more patient,” he said.
“All children come with problems, otherwise they wouldn’t be in care. There have been times when we’ve wondered what we’re doing, but it soon gets forgotten. Let’s face it, no children are angels.”
The couple welcome the new friends they have made through not-for-profit agency Community Foster Care.
“The support we get from the agency is amazing. They are always at the end of the phone if we need them, and they host regular social events when everyone gets together.
“There’s also a good network of foster carers who understand where I’m coming from if there’s an issue. You can’t discuss a cared-for child with all the other mums and dads at the school gates.
“All children misbehave sometimes, but with cared-for children there’s usually a very specific reason. Other foster carers understand that.”