Happy family

21 November 2014

THE Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has paid tribute to a retired priest and his partner for jointly winning the gold national award from Care Forum Wales as carers for young people with mental disabilities.

The Revd Martin Reynolds and his partner, Christopher Isles (right and left in photo), became foster carers for five-year-old Andrew, who had autism and could not speak. Despite many obstacles, the couple remained committed to providing him with a supportive family home, and were eventually awarded full custody.

Now, 22 years later, Andrew is still a central part of their home and family life, but is now talking, and has a job in a chip shop. The couple have also adopted Robert, and look after three other young people who come for extended leave. All of them have learning difficulties.

"We are really a family of six," Mr Reynolds says. He is also a carer, in their Newport home in Monmouth diocese, for his 91- year-old mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. "Caring for these young people has been the most exciting thing that has happened in our lives. The greatest gift our lads have given us is that they have shared the way they see our world, and helped us understand so much more the richness of God's creation," he says.

Their role as carers began when Mr Reynolds was Vicar of Pontyclun with Talygarn, and was asked by a churchwarden if he and Mr Isles could offer respite time for a young person. Their application was held up for six months because they were a gay couple. "It was pretty gruesome to encounter such prejudice against us," Mr Reynolds says. "Britain was a very different place then, with the Section 28 legislation and opposition to gay adoption."

Today, he says, they encounter more hostility towards people with disabilities, and he calls on Christians to help to tackle this. "They need love more than anyone else, and I think Christians should think about offering their homes to them."

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