They had been married for 16 years. Their five children had left home. And they had a big family house.
Many couples might have downsized and sailed away on a world cruise.
Jenny and Ralph Owen decided to become foster carers.
“It seemed wrong to have a family home and no family in it,” said Jenny, 61, who was a teacher for more than 35 years and now works part-time as a chaplain in a high school in Runcorn.
Ralph, 71, had been retired from his job as a project manager for Shell for 18 years.
“We both had the energy and the space in our lives to do it,” said Jenny. “I thought I had one more career in me. And we simply thought it was payback time – time to make a difference.
“I know that most people who go into teaching think they can make a difference, and they often do. But this was the opportunity to make a difference in a very particular way.”
The couple began by contacting every foster agency they could find.
“We chose Community Foster Care because they came back to me in less than a week and they phoned rather than sending an email or a letter,” said Jenny.
She and Ralph, 71, signed up for the CFC training scheme and were both registered in April 2015.
“Throughout the process of training and placements, we’ve always felt cherished by Community Foster Care. They make us feel they know us and remember us – we’re not just a name on a list,” said Jenny.
The couple have chosen to do mother-and-baby and parent-and-child fostering.
“Given our ages, we wanted to do short-term fostering. It wouldn’t be sensible to take on a child for five years. We weren’t looking to build a new family.”
Jenny believes that cared-for children want the same things that any parent wants for their own child: boundaries, love, security, resilience, humour.
“It’s just more demanding because you’re filling a big gap in their lives and that’s a huge responsibility.
“There is a realisation that you can’t always help. All you can do in some situations is sit alongside and be there for them. But that’s still worthwhile.”
The couple have recently completed their first placement and are eager to begin the next. Jenny’s advice to others thinking of fostering is to ‘be brave’.
“There are a lot of things that you’ve just got to do in life. You can stand around for a long time wondering ‘should I or shouldn’t I’ but at the end of the day, you have to go out there and do your best. If you have the space and the energy, just do it.”