Once they were prison officers. Now Andrea and Russ Jones are the doting carers of a little girl.
And they are in no doubt that becoming a foster carer really does transform lives.
The couple, from Carnforth near Lancaster, took up fostering in 2016.
“We’d both retired early for health reasons and, after about four years, we felt we were getting old before our time.” said Andrea, 44.
“We were sitting around doing not much all day. We couldn’t go out to work but we were too young to be doing nothing.
“We’d looked at adoption a few years earlier but that fell by the wayside.
“Then we thought about fostering – it would mean we’d still be helping a child. We had a spare room, and I was still feeling quite maternal. Then it became a case of whether we were well enough to do it.
“We spoke to our medical team who were very supportive so we started the process.”
Andrea did her research. “I believe in researching thoroughly before taking a big decision, so I looked at lots of agencies and the local authority.
“The moment the person [Loren Hannah] from Community Foster Care came in, we just connected. The decision was made.”
The couple spent six months going through the necessary procedures, including taking part in CFC’s Skills to Foster training course.
They also had discussions with their two sons, aged 16 and 9.
“They were absolutely fine. The eldest didn’t want another teenager in the house – which we entirely agreed with. The nine-year-old became a new person when a baby came along – her face totally lit up when he was here. He helps a lot and has gained untold self-confidence.”
Russ and Andrea were finally accepted in July 2016, and it didn’t take long before their first child arrived.
“We were accepted in the morning. We went out to celebrate. And by teatime we got a call from our social worker who said ‘we’ve got a baby for you’ who needed short-term care in the run-up to adoption.
“A nine-week-old child entered our lives, and we’ve never looked back.
“It’s pretty full on. You don’t just take on a child and get on with it – there are meetings, training and everything that goes with it. The support we get from CFC is amazing.
“But this child has had a massive impact on our lives. For the first three months I had to sleep downstairs with her. We were both shattered. But she brought us so much.
“We treated her as one of our own. She gave us a new lease of life and made us feel as if we were doing something worthwhile. It’s everything we thought it would be and more.”
Russ, 47, is equally positive. “Watching a child develop and grow in a safe environment has been incredible,” he said. “These children are just little innocents who didn’t ask to be in care. It’s our job to offer them protection and a safe place to thrive.
“Fostering has transformed all our lives. We weren’t ready to watch Cash in the Attic on daytime TV and there’s no doubt we’ve done the right thing. It’s a chance to give a little bit back and we’ve definitely gained as much as we give. ”