Couple opens arms to children
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.