Stories from 56 years of fostering

“The hardest part is when you see them return to the parent or move somewhere else because you become attached to them like your own children,” says Verna and George Kite as they sit in their Bethlehem home.

George smiles while Verna reminisces.

The couple – recently recognised by the Governor-General for their five decades of fostering children – are talking to The Weekend Sun reporter Ayla Yeoman.

This week – part two of their story – they share their experiences while not identifying individuals.

“I’ve been heartbroken so many times over children and you sort of think: ‘I’m not gonna do this again’, but then the next one comes up so you do it,” says Verna.

The couple would love to continue fostering children but cannot due to George’s health.

Here are some of their memories – good and bad.

The ‘professional thief’ 

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

The couple fostered first at their Waikato farm in 1968 – for weeks or months.

“Those children were quite hard because they’d been torn away from their parents and that was really hard, you really felt for them.”

One boy, aged 15, was six foot and a “professional thief”.

“You could put your purse down and he’d take the money and you wouldn’t see it.

"He was so good at it,” says Verna.

He told the Kites:

“The day I started school my older brother and I broke into a house on our way home and we stole jewellery.”

“He was 5!” says Verna.

Verna replied: “‘What did your mother do?’

He said: ‘Oh, she kept the watch’.

I said: ‘Well, do you know what I would’ve done? You would’ve gone straight back to that house and told the people what you’d done and taken the consequences’.”

Verna says the boy stole something from his college.

“George took him back.

“The boy said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done and no one had ever taken the time to show him that attention, and to show him what was right or wrong.”

It was at that moment Verna and George decided to continue fostering.

George and Verna Kite. Photo: John Borren.

The couple say: “You never know what the kid’s going to be like.”

One boy, aged seven, had been in trouble before he got to them.

“He was a gorgeous little kid... this was his last chance, coming to the farm.”

The boy had to go to court. “

He walks into the courtroom and says: ‘Hi George, how are you?’ That was the magistrate,” says Verna.

“The magistrate said: “What did I say if you came back again?”

The boy replied: “You don’t have to worry.

“I’m with good people. I’m on a farm and I love it.”

Verna reckons 99 per cent of children came to them with problems.

“When they first arrive we’d let them get a feel of the place and we’d sit down and tell them our expectations then we’d just work from there.”


Verna says many children were very angry, verbal, would swear a lot and throw things.

“One three-year-old boy – every word that came out of his mouth was a swear word.

"He was quite a violent little boy."

“After about three days we said: ‘Enough’.

He replied: ‘You can’t tell me what to do’.

I said: ‘If you want to stay here, you don’t swear, you don’t throw things, you don’t hit people.

"You remember you are in a home and we want to love you, but we can’t love you when you do this’.

“‘Nobody loves me,’ said the boy.

“He was a real hard little one, then one day George was outside and the boy asked:

‘Can I help you?’

"George gave him a broom and he helped, he just wanted to help... That was the way we got through to him.”

The boy was still in a nappy so the couple went to buy him underwear.

“He said: ‘I don’t want to wear them because I’m only going to wee them and poo them’.”

Verna potty trained the boy in three days.

“Then when he went back to his parents he went to school in pull-ups.

"How demoralising is that for a five-year-old?

"They just couldn’t be bothered. It’s the little things that you can do to help them.”

Five at once 

The boy had come to the Kites as one of five siblings, aged 11 months to nine years old.

“They came to us absolutely filthy, the two little ones stank to be honest; it was terrible.

"It took four lots of bathwater to get them clean."

“They all had nits.

"They arrived with what they were standing in, not even a nappy for the baby."

“They were so badly neglected. We just fell so in love with those children.”

The three older kids went to a local primary school but were way behind in their schooling because they’d missed so many days.

“The older boy missed 109 days of school in a year.

"We went to school and asked: ‘How can we help these children?’

"They told us what we could do.

"The older boy was illiterate and was two years behind his age group.

"In six months we had him up to his age group.

"It gave him all the confidence in the world to know that he could go to school and do the work.”

Be there

Verna and George had these five children for seven months.

“I think the biggest challenge for us was just letting them tell you what had happened.

“You just want to fix it, but you couldn’t. You just had to be there for them and love them.”

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