"Hundreds of children’s lives have been brightened" by the work of a Hemel Hempstead couple who have been fostering children for 40 years.

Joan and Reg East, both aged 78, say their own lives have been made all the richer by the children they have helped, many of whom they are still in touch with.

The couple started fostering for Hertfordshire County Council when Joan worked as a secretary to a health visitor, and heard about a baby girl in hospital who needed someone to foster her.

Four decades later, and the couple have not looked back, having done both short and long-term fostering as well as respite care.

Reg said: “We have never been empty in our house, we’ve never been without a foster child.

"We still keep in touch with so many of our foster children. In fact, we went to the wedding of one of our foster children last year!

“We have always wanted to give children TLC, some of the kids who haven’t been as lucky in life as we have, we want to give them a better life.”

Joan and Reg are still fostering children to this day and are currently providing a home for a care leaver, who joined them at the age of 12.

The care leaver is now 20 years of age, while the couple are also fostering a 15-year-old boy, who has been with them for around eight weeks.

Herts Advertiser: Hertfordshire County Council have praised Joan and Reg's work over the past 40 years.Hertfordshire County Council have praised Joan and Reg's work over the past 40 years. (Image: ©2019 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved)

Joan added: "Seeing the children bloom is such a lovely feeling.

"You take them in and they don’t really understand love, but by the time they leave, they’ve started to give love back. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

The couple have three sons of their own and say they all embraced the situation, welcoming the many different foster children into their homes.

Reg continued: "The eldest was about 10 or 11 years old when we first fostered, and our youngest about 4-5. They really enjoyed it.

"When I look back on their lives, it really did them good. It made them more tolerant of children and appreciative of family life.”

Reg and Joan look back on "countless" highlights from their fostering days, which include receiving a bunch of red roses on Mother’s Day and a foster child simply turning round and saying "I Love You".

Joan said: “I’d encourage people to consider fostering.

"It’s worth all the training you have to do, as you don’t truly understand the children coming in care until you do it.

"Just go for it. You won’t regret it.”

Hertfordshire County Council has praised Reg and Joan's work over the past 40 years, and have encouraged others to take on the challenge.


Cllr Fiona Thomson said: "It’s truly wonderful that Joan and Reg have given so much of their life to helping so many children.

“We are very grateful to them, as are the many children whose lives they have touched.

“We urgently need more people like Joan and Reg to come forward to be foster carers.

"As well as helping children in need, they will also see rewards in their own life.”