Golden 50 years

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ON THEIR 50th wedding anniversary, a couple who have fostered approximately 80 children are recommending fostering to other couples.

Julie Astridge, the daughter of Daphne, 71, and Tony Astridge, 70, has spoken of her pride for her parents after witnessing their reunion with some of their foster children at their golden wedding anniversary celebrations on Saturday night.

The happy couple were given a surprise visit by four of their past foster children while celebrating with friends and family at Slinfold Village Hall, where they had their wedding reception 50 years ago.

Julie, 41, of Guildford Road, Slinfold, said: “I feel quite honoured to have them as parents.

“One lady, who’s now 41, came to the party and she was five when she came to us. She stayed with us for six or seven months.”

The couple retired from fostering six years ago after being registered fosterers for 33 years, due to regulation changes which made their fostering abilities more restricted.

Daphne Astridge has pointed out that the job can be more exciting than people realise as a fosterer can be asked to take on a child at any time.

She said: “I have had children from all hours of the day and some because their parents have been arrested.”

One South African boy was taken by security at Gatwick Airport after his carer was reported to be acting suspiciously and the people she wanted to leave the boy with were not related to him.

Daphne said: “We had a phone call at three o’clock in the morning asking if we could take a baby. They didn’t know how old he was, they guessed about nine months. He was a big baby but he couldn’t walk.”

They took him in for seven weeks before he was sent back to South Africa to be looked after by social services.

As well as having two biologicial sisters, Julie, who works at Co-operative Infinity Foods in Portslade, has had foster siblings for the majority of her life.

She said: “Mum and dad started fostering when I went to primary school. When I went I think my mum thought ‘I think I’ll get another’.”

They also adopted two children after several years of fostering - one boy called Aiden who they had fostered from the age of six months before being told that he needed a permanent home when he was seven years old.

The other was a girl called Kelly who they had fostered from the age of three months and she was a little harder to get legal parental rights to.

Julie said: “The youngest was quite a story. Mum and dad had a battle with her parents. We had had her for two and a half years and they told my parents they were too old to adopt so we all clubbed together and said ‘no’ we want to adopt her.

“They said to us ‘as long as you understand she’ll be your legal child’ and we were like ‘well yeah she is already!’.”

“My sister, Kelly, now has young children of her own and she feels quite honoured to have got us as a family, she did a speech at the party.”

The couple were forced to give up their love for fostering when regulation changes brought in new rules about smoking.

Julie said: “Mum always says ‘all they need is love and attention and affection’. My dad gets angry and says they should use more common sense and concentrate on the children.”

Daphne said that the rules now stipulate that mixed race children must go to mixed race foster parents and people who smoke can’t have children younger than 18 months old.

She said: “I was so sad to have to give it up because my husband and daughter smoke even though they don’t smoke in the living room.’’

Daphne gave this message for anyone thinking about fostering: “You have got to go into it with an open mind because there is a lot of training which I didn’t have to do which I didn’t have to do at the time.”

West Sussex has around 410 foster carers but is looking for more people to provide a warm and responsive temporary family.

West Sussex County Council awarded the couple with a certificate when they reached their 30th year of fostering.

For more information about fostering go to the county council’s website, call the West Sussex recruitment fostering team on 01403 229333, or email: fostering.recruitment.team@westsussex.gov.uk