Cou­ple opens arms to chil­dren

South Waikato News - - NEWS / HE PU¯RONGORONGO -

Af­ter rais­ing five of their own chil­dren, you might think that Toko­roa cou­ple Jill and Richard La­gas would put their feet up and en­joy a bit of peace and quiet.

In­stead, the pair has be­come ‘‘mum and dad’’ to an­other seven chil­dren through Child Youth and Fam­ily.

Re­mem­ber­ing their own ‘‘ Kiwi’’ child­hoods, Jill said she and Richard were keen to open their home to chil­dren who needed a fun and lov­ing fam­ily to be part of.

‘‘Some­times we won­der what life would be like if we didn’t do this, but we think ‘ yeah, nah’ – we’d never want life with­out the kids now,’’ Jill said.

The cou­ple have opted to take on sib­lings, as they see the im­por­tance of keep­ing chil­dren to­gether where pos­si­ble.

‘‘It wasn’t part of our plan, but it’s evolved,’’ Jill said, adding that they also pro­vide respite care for other sib­lings of chil­dren in their care.

Their home is on three acres, so there is plenty of room for the kids to be kids.

Jill said some­times this can take time, as older chil­dren who have been car­ing for younger broth­ers or sis­ters can take a while to re­lin­quish that re­spon­si­bil­ity to Richard and Jill.

It’s all a mat­ter of trust, but once that trust has been es­tab­lished there is no look­ing back.

But bring­ing the chil­dren into their fam­ily has not been with­out its chal­lenges, they said.

‘‘ The first thing I tell other care­givers is that you have to ‘clean your own slate’ be­fore you go into it,’’ Jill said.

‘‘There is no such thing as a ‘nor­mal’ child­hood, and you have to step back and re­alise that you need to show the kids a new way to look at life.’’

Child Youth and Fam­ily care­giver so­cial worker Rianna Rothman de­scribed the pair as ‘‘ab­so­lutely priceless’’.

‘‘They see the chil­dren as gifts that are given to them, not just as foster chil­dren.’’

The first week in March is Fos­ter­care Aware­ness Week, cel­e­brat­ing peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who are mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence – peo­ple like Richard and Jill.

REACH­ING OUT: Richard and Jill La­gas’ fam­ily just

keeps on grow­ing.

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