Published: 06:00, 15 November 2020
| Updated: 11:36, 16 November 2020
A husband and wife from Tonbridge who fostered a child at the start of lockdown say the new addition to their household is already "part of the family".
Reports of children across Kent lacking a stable home prompted Richard and Sharon Lovelock to seriously consider fostering around three years ago.
Richard Lovelock and his wife started fostering just before lockdown
But at the time they decided their two children were not quite ready for such a drastic change to the family home.
Now with their son at university and their daughter at secondary school, the couple felt ready to take the step and welcomed in a young boy just starting primary school.
Richard, a former teaching assistant at an SEN school, gave up his job so he could give the boy all the attention he needs.
The 51-year-old said: "I wanted to make sure that everything was OK with the person that we get and it means that I take him to school, I pick him up from school and there are no distractions at all for me to look after him."
His wife Sharon continues to work full-time as a Methodist minister.
Richard said having a younger child back in the house "was like turning back the clocks".
He said: "It was exactly like when our children were at that age. They wanted to play and you wanted to play as well and it was getting to know their personality, their likes and dislikes."
But the nature of taking on a foster child also meant the couple had to be sensitive about where he came from and what experiences he had already had in his life.
Richard said: "These children aren't put into care for no reason at all and so some of their problems were coming out after a few days.
"We'd been given a lot of background on this person anyway so we knew how to tackle a few of these things from the advice of the former foster carer and also the social workers.
"These children aren't put into care for no reason at all..."
"So we were able to help with their problems."
Now the boy has been with the Lovelocks for eight months, Richard can't ever see him not being in the family unit.
He said: "They're part of the family now, they really are. So I can't see an end date. I can see them growing up and moving on like our own children.
"We're enjoying the time that he's with us and it's all plain sailing at the moment."
Though the pair encourage other families to consider fostering, Richard also says people should think carefully about whether it is right for them.
He said: "They need to have a good think and have a good discussion and the make sure it's frank.
"But it really is quite amazing when you get somebody and you start their learning, their likes and dislikes. It's a new member of the family and you really feel like you're doing the right thing."
Richard and Sharon fostered through Diagrama, a charity urging more people to consider fostering children in desperate need of a stable home.
It comes as the charity warns of an increase in children across the south east waiting for foster care places to become available.
David McGuire, chief executive of Diagrama Foundation, the charity which runs Diagrama Fostering, said: "This year has been difficult for many people, in different ways.
"For some, they have found themselves reassessing their priorities in life and for others their careers have taken an unexpected turn.
"Fostering is often overlooked as a career choice – yet the rewards and job satisfaction cannot be underestimated.
"Most of our foster carers currently have children in long-term placements and they are able to offer the children the stability and security they desperately need to thrive."
Like Richard and Sharon, all Diagrama foster carers receive extensive training both at the outset and on a continual basis, offering people the chance to acquire valuable skills for life.