'We’ve Loved Them All': Octogenarians Have Fostered Over 150 Kids — and Are Currently Caring for 8-Month-Old Boy

Robert and Margaret Isdale

Published Time: 10.05.2024 - 15:31:14 Modified Time: 10.05.2024 - 15:31:14

Robert and Margaret Isdale.who live in Lincolnshire, England, have fostered over 150 children in the past 45 years — and they have no plans to retire just yet.

“It’s something we always wanted to do and we enjoy doing it,” Robert, 81, tells PEOPLE. “You think why not? If you’re fit enough, why not? I would say to anybody, no matter how old you are, if you want to do it, go for it.”

“People say, ‘I don’t know how I can do it, I don’t how you can give them up,’ but you’ve got to understand what the role is,” he continues. “You’re giving the child a safe and loving environment until parents can be found.”

That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when the couple, who have been married for 58 years, have found it difficult to see a child in their care move on. 

“The first baby that we had, who was with us for five or six months, we were very tempted to apply to adopt him, but then his mum wanted him back,” explains Margaret, 80.

“It’s a bittersweet thing when they move on because you form attachments to them, but you have to move on and quite a few of them keep in touch with us and their families,” adds Robert. “We think it’s really quite a pleasure when they move on, not because we want to get rid of them, but because meeting new families and seeing them settled in is lovely. The longest time we’ve had a child with us is four and a half years.”

The couple formed such a bond with the last little girl they fostered that her adoptive parents have asked them to become her godparents at her christening later this year. 

“It was so lovely to be asked,” Margaret adds. “It made me cry. She’s such a lovely little girl and her adoptive parents are lovely as well. We had her for 14 months from when she was 5 days old and she’s nearly 3 now.”

But there was one baby who came into the couple’s lives who was just too special to let go. 

After three years of caring for a“beautiful” little girl named Kim — who was born with Down syndrome and a complex heart condition — Robert and Margaret decided to adopt her in 1987.

“When we got Kim she had a life prognosis of between 6 and 9 months and she had a serious heart condition, but she didn’t let it affect her,” Robert says.

After Kim, who lived until she was 21, became an adult, she decided she wanted to find out about her birth parents.

"The social worker traced her mum to just down the road from us in Lincolnshire, even though we were living a couple of hours away in Birmingham when we s -

tarted caring for her," he explains. "Eight months before she died she met her birth family and relatives she didn't know existed. We’re still very good friends with her birth mum."

Tragically, the couple said they were all on vacation when she died in 2005. "That was devastating," says Robert. "We took her off on holiday and we came back without her. But she had a full life.”

The couple — who are also parents to daughter Fiona and son David, who are both in their 50s — is currently caring for an 8-month-old baby boy, who has been with them since he was 8 days old. “We saw him in the hospital,” says Margaret. “He’s just lovely.” 

And rather than being fazed by the sleepless nights and endless diapers that come with having a little one, Robert and Margaret have taken them in stride.

“Sleep?” laughs Margaret. “What’s that?”

“When you get to our age you are up a couple of times in the night anyway, and a stroller makes a good substitute for a walking frame!” Robert adds with a laugh. “And we’re both adept with diapers!"

Jokes aside, Margaret says the boy "actually sleeps very well" and that the couple loves fostering babies.

“Oh yes, we’re down to babies now we’re getting old,” adds Robert. “We’ve had our fair share of teenagers and so on. We’ve loved them all. There have been challenges, but one of the secrets of enjoying being a foster carer is treating people with respect and not being judgemental whatever their background is.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

At present, the couple — who were awarded a lifetime achievement award by Lincolnshire County Council earlier this month for their fostering efforts — has no immediate plans to retire.

“We were thinking of finishing, we mentioned to social services that we felt perhaps because of our age we ought to, and then somebody said something to us that made us hang on a bit longer,” explains Robert. “They’re very short of fosterer carers and adopters in our area so we never really know how long a child is going to be with us. I think it depends who comes along. The main thing is the safety of the children, but we’re okay at the moment!”

Follow Us