Recognised for five decades of fostering children

Verna and George Kite. Photo: John Borren.

Not many parents forget how many children they’ve cared for in their life, but Verna and George Kite have.

The Bethlehem couple can tell us they’ve fostered children across five decades, but only know the number is in the triple digits.

Now the octogenarians have been recognised for their selfless and tireless efforts by the Governor General in Wellington.

Their outstanding accomplishments and 56 years contributing to New Zealand’s foster care system saw them receive an Honouring Excellence award at 2024′s Excellence in Foster Care Awards in March.

The Weekend Sun journalist Ayla Yeoman sat down with the couple to explore their 56 years of fostering children.

The couple say the fostering began on their Waikato dairy farm in 1968.

Verna remembers the opportunity came along when they adopted daughter Andrea.

“It was under Social Welfare at the time and that’s how we got into it, and it just blossomed from there… We had a big old house and plenty of rooms.

“We got short-term children from Hamilton Court whose parents were fighting for custody.

“They’d bring them out to us and we might have them for a week, three weeks... for three months.”

The couple had two sons of their own, who, with older sister Andrea, grew up with foster children coming in and out of their home throughout their childhoods.

“It was great, our children have said to us it was good for them because they realised how lucky they were.

"We had a lot of children that didn’t even have a home and didn’t have parents and had nobody that cared about them.”

Verna admits she’s been heartbroken many times.

“You sort of think: ‘I’m not gonna do this again’ but then the next one comes up, so you do it.”

It takes a special kind of person to dedicate their life to making others’ lives better – Verna and George are the epitome of this.

The Weekend Sun saw that they clearly, really loved every child – and no child was more important than another.

Every story they told, they told with the same amount of enthusiasm – sharing memories of the good and the bad, the times they laughed and the times they cried.

In fact, while being humbled by the Foster Care Award, they “didn’t think it was necessary”.

The certificate presented by Governor General. Photo: John Borren. 

So what does it take to be a fosterer?

“Patience,” says Verna.

“And you need love – but you need to be able to see inside the child because every child has a problem, they come to you with problems.

“You can’t ask them.

"You’ll find after they’ve been here – [it] might be two days, a week, might be three weeks – they come and talk to you.

"They open up and once they open up it’s great because they get it all off their chest.”

The couple would love to continue to foster children, even at their age, but unfortunately George’s health isn’t up to it.

“We always had foster children up till the last couple of years when George got heart problems.

"We do weekends with children or if there’s an emergency child, we’ll take emergency children but we don’t do full fostering."

“I’d love to, but George isn’t up to it any more; he’s 85 and I’m 80,” says Verna.

Next week The Sun will share the couple’s experiences with the children they have fostered over the years, while not identifying the individuals.

“You never know what the kid’s going to be like,” says Verna.

For example, they fostered a seven-year-old boy who’d been in trouble.

“He was a gorgeous little kid. He’d been in trouble so many times and this was his last chance, coming to the farm.”

Read more next week.

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