Football legends Mark Wright, of Liverpool FC and former England captain, and Neville Southall, former goalkeeper for Everton FC and Wales, shared their experiences with fostering and adoption ahead of the Premier Legends Tournament held in Gibraltar today.
Neville said he got into fostering after seeing Mark and his wife Sue foster Sonia, who is now 11-years-old.
The former Everton FC goalkeeper shared a personal story of when he first adopted two boys. He said the first thing one of them did was pull out a Liverpool FC towel from their bag, to much laughter from all who attended the press conference at the Tercentenary Hall at the Victoria Stadium this afternoon.
Speaking about his experiences, he adds: “To bring other people’s children to your house is difficult, but it has to be a multi-agency approach and the kid has to fit you right, and you have to be right for the children.
“One thing I’ve learnt from this is that you have to be the right fit for the children. Whatever the damage they have, you’re the solution to most of their problems, but you have to be the right person to give them the solutions.”
The two retired football players, along with Mark’s wife Sue and Minister for Social Services Samantha Sacramento, will be meeting with parents and families interested in fostering or adoption tomorrow at 3pm in the press room at the Tercentenary Hall in the Victoria Stadium.
Mark and Neville are currently in Gibraltar this weekend for the Premier Legend’s corporate football 5-a-side tournament and a children’s football academy over the weekend, including other retired football players Dennis Wise, David May and Kenny Sansom.
Mark and Sue are working with Minister Sacramento and the Fostering & Adoption team of the Social Services Department of the Care Agency to raise awareness of the importance of fostering and adoption.
Mark and Sue are foster parents and adoptive parents and they have a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area which they are happy to share. They first fostered Sonia when she was three years old, and she has been a part of the family for the past eight years.
Mark adds: “Sometimes people don’t think about what is out there until awareness is made, and when you start talking these children that are, through a variety of things that have gone wrong, neglected or abused or hurt, whatever it may be, it is very hard for me as an adult to fathom and it makes me feel so sad.”
He said that it was once he started to put himself in these children’s minds, it made him realise how horrifying the situation is for children who may have lost their families, it made him realise he had to raise awareness about fostering and adoption for others. He said that it is football that is one thing that has helped to raise awareness and has helped spread the message further.
Last year, the Care Agency launched an awareness campaign for fostering and adoption, the aim of which is to give the community a better understanding of what it means and how it works in Gibraltar as well as to inform how this important process can transform the lives of children in care.
Minister Sacramento said: “Social Services has worked very hard to develop its fostering and adoption policies because of their importance to the lives of affected children. The Care Agency has undertaken a number of awareness campaigns to raise the profile of adoption and fostering: we are absolutely delighted to have Sue and Mark Wright work with us to bring this important issue to the forefront once again.
“It is thanks to the generosity of spirit of people who foster and adopt that opportunities are created for children to grow up in family units and so transform their lives. I am grateful to Sue, Mark and Neville for taking time out of the busy tournament to speak to the community about their experience and I would encourage anyone considering fostering or adopting to attend tomorrow for a chat with them. Professionals from the Care Agency will also be available for advice.”