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The 4 inspiring Moray foster families who have supported 142 children

We spoke to the carers to find out more about how they support vulnerable youngsters.

Line-up of foster carers holding flowers and awards.
David and Sandra Barclay, George and Jackie Duncan, Moira Nicol, Alison and Gordon George have been celebrated for their long service. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

They have collectively supported more than 140 children through important life landmarks.

And now, four inspiring Moray foster families are encouraging others to make the same life-changing impact.

The carers have provided a mix of short-term, long-term, emergency and permanent placements over a combined 53 years.

All of them have now been recognised with special long-service awards recognising their incredible efforts providing safe homes to youngsters.

And they say that the rewarding feeling they get from seeing them all grow up outweighs the phenomenal challenges of the role.

The Press and Journal spoke to the foster families to hear about the impact they are having on Moray children.

Wall decorated with more than 40 photos of foster children

David and Sandra Barclay holding certificate and flowers in front of trees.
David and Sandra Barclay. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

Sandra and David Barclay, from Elgin, had three of their own children. When the middle child approached university age they began to worry about having an empty home.

Over the last 13 years they have provided care to 43 children, mostly babies, helping many to successful adoptions while working to ensure siblings stay together.

All of them are remembered in a huge display of pictures in their home.

Mrs Barclay said: “I didn’t know it was 40-something. You don’t count them, but you don’t forget them either.

“I have a big thing of pictures on the wall with them all together. I love looking at it, I really do.

“We love hearing what they are up to and seeing how they’re getting on. I wish we had done it years ago, it feels like this is what I was meant to do.”

‘Making a difference’

George and Jackie Duncan holding flowers and framed certificate.
George and Jackie Duncan. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

Jackie and George Duncan’s children are now 32 and 26, but they have since welcomed three more children who stay with them permanently.

The oldest is now preparing to go to university after being nurtured by the couple from a young age.

Jackie has had a lifelong passion for working with children after previously working playgroups close to her home near Keith.

She continues to support countless other families with her work raising awareness of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which can affect babies exposed to alcohol before birth.

Mrs Duncan said: “I think I got into fostering just to maybe make a difference, and you can really see those differences as they move to mature childhood.

“We have children who are with us permanently and they are just our family now. We don’t think of them any differently, we do everything together.

“I would encourage anyone thinking about fostering just to take that first step to find out more. There’s a real community of foster carers in Moray.”

Small steps led to 10 years of fostering

Alison and Gordon George. Image: David Mackay/DC Thomson

Alison and Gordon George now have three grown-up children, and the first they fostered are also now making their own way in the world.

The couple, who live near Urquhart on the outskirts of Elgin, have been fostering for the last 10 years. The first they welcomed into their home is now 22.

Before fostering they hosted children affected by the Chernobyl disaster and provided accommodation for the Glasgow Children Holiday’s Scheme.

A total of 18 children have now learned to make jam in the kitchen with Alison, or enjoyed long walks in the woods with Gordon.

Mr George said: “It just morphed into fostering. It’s such an essential service that Moray desperately needs.

“The number of families has been decreasing in the last few years so there’s definitely a requirement and need for foster carers.

“You have to give credit to the kids too, they should such courage and resilience coming into the home of strangers. They go with the flow and you can see the steps they take.”

Dispelling fostering myths in Moray

Also being recognised this week was Moira Nicol, from Forres, who has supported an incredible 77 children over the last 20 years.

Social workers praised her “relaxed homely atmosphere” and her daughter’s border collie Zack for their nurturing.

There are currently 33 foster families in Moray, but the service always faces pressures from those stepping back after years of service.

Social worker Diane McCulloch said: “Previously you couldn’t foster and work, but that’s changed now and as long as you’re available to meet the needs of the child when they come home from school then you can foster.

“People tell us they didn’t know they could still work, so we’re trying to break that myth at the moment.

“There’s an assessment process, but if you’re 21 and over, have a spare bedroom and compassionate about children then you could foster.”

Moray Council is hosting an online session about becoming a foster carer on Wednesday, November 8 at 7pm. Call 01343 563568 or e-mail to secure an invite.