A CITY couple who have fostered six children over the best part of 20 years rubbed shoulders with royalty after being invited to the Queen’s Garden Party.

Debbie Bateman and Paul Martin found themselves at Buckingham Palace last week as a thank you for their efforts and have encouraged others toying with fostering to “just go for it”.

The pair have been together for 30 years and currently care for two siblings and another child with complex needs, while also providing indefinite support to a young person with autism.

The sibling group was considered a high-risk fostering case due to the nature of their family circumstances, but the couple were determined to offer them a safe and happy home.

Ms Bateman, 57, said anyone considering fostering needs to have a “stable and happy family” and be prepared to take in children “with problems who often come from very difficult backgrounds”.

But she said a child’s start in live, no matter how difficult, shouldn't characterise their lives because “there’s enough love to go around”.

The couple have five biological children of their own who have all now moved out of the family home.

“I did child minding when my children were younger and then it was a family friend who started a fostering business and we just naturally fell into it,” said Ms Bateman.

“If you have got love and patience, it’s very rewarding,” she added.

Ms Bateman and Mr Martin, 61, took on an autistic child when he was just five years old and now, aged 22, he remains living at their home as part of a Staying Put placement becoming very much "part of the family".

The couple also have a young person in their care who has complex needs, ADHD and attachment disorder – and because of this they have undertaken specialist training, working with experts to meet individual needs.

Mrs Bateman and Mr Martin both work as a part-time nurse and a self-employed painter and decorator respectively, on top of fostering.

A spokesman for Pathway Care Fostering, based in Bromsgrove, said: “Their dedication, resilience and positivity is remarkable and they have always been an absolute pleasure to work with.

“They are true ambassadors for fostering, committed to the children in their care, no matter the challenge that face them, and they don’t give up.”

The couple have supported the agency in carer recruitment activities and Ms Bateman has also been a Foster Carer Forum representative.

“As an agency we recognise all the positive work they have done,” continued the spokesman.

“So much so as an agency we put their names forward to be shortlisted to attend the Queen’s Garden Party.