Foster Caring for 20 Years

By PSS | Posted: Wednesday February 28, 2018

For the past 20 years Barbara and Rex McElligott have opened their home, their minds and their hearts to numerous children who have needed it.

Twenty years ago Barbara and Rex McElligott answered a Family Works advert, seeking new foster parents.

Now, two decades on and with their own children grown and moved out of home, the Woodlands-based couple continue to open their doors to children in need of respite, emergency and transitional care.

It has simply become a way of life for the southern family.

“It has been an awesome journey,” Barbara said.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but it really is a privilege to walk alongside these kids for a while.”
“It’s great to see the change, the growth, the new experiences, the healing… to see their wee eyes light up when they see or do something new, and the new skills they gain, is special. One wee boy caught his first fish and his wee face just lit up.”
“Being on a farm is special for the kids, even just having that space to get out and make noise and just to be kids; to play on the hay bales or make huts or jump in the puddles and spend time with the animals.”

The McElligotts have largely taken in children with ages ranging from babies to teenagers, for a short period of time, however one child who started that way is still a permanent member of their family 15 years on.

Their own children were aged between 3 and 7 when the family first started with foster care, and they say the impact on them has been positive.

“Our kids have grown up to be really empathetic towards people and their differences. It was just normal for them.”

Barbara now works as the Regional Coordinator for the Lower South Island for Fostering Kids New Zealand, with a strong understanding of the support many foster parents require.

While they have had some breaks over their 20 years of foster caring, for the majority of the past two decades the McElligott home has been a full one.

“Our lives are full, but it’s good… it’s the simple things that we take for granted that often give the most joy to the kids and that’s what we can offer. The giving of experiences and a knowledge that there is a different way of doing family.”

Former Foster Care Coordinator for Family Works Maree Sellars (now the Strengthening Families Coordinator) said the contribution of the McElligotts over such a long period of time had been invaluable for Southland children.

“We absolutely value every foster parent, whatever their contribution may be, and to have been there for 20 years, that is an extraordinary contribution the McElligotts have made. I’ve also been involved with Barbara in her role with Fostering Kids, and have really valued that relationship over many years.”

Urgent Need for More Foster Parents

Family Works has an urgent need for more foster parents. 

If you think you could help, please contact Family Works Team Leader Margaret Knowler on 03 211 8265 or email

Full training and support is offered to anyone interested in becoming a foster parent, and there are opportunities to provide respite, mid or long term care.