After two decades of fostering I still love it just as much
19 December 2023
19 December 2023
Davina has reached a fantastic milestone and was recently awarded her 20-year fostering certificate. After two decades of fostering, we caught up with Davina who gave up her previous role supporting people with disabilities and went on to foster for herself and her late husband.
What made you interested in fostering to begin with?
Initially, back in the 1980s, when my husband was alive, we looked into fostering, and back then, they had pictures on the wall of children who needed fostering. I remember many of them being teenagers, and because we had a young son then, we didn't go ahead as I wasn't sure how our son would have coped back then. My husband sadly died in 1983, and I worked at Oak Farm Rehabilitation Centre in Norfolk for brain-damaged and disabled people.
I became interested in fostering following my life experiences. I have lost people that I love over the years, and I understand children can come into foster care for many reasons. Some of their parents might have passed away, and of course, there are no other relatives for them to stay with. I talked it over with my son, who was now 33 years old. He also thought it would be a good idea because that's what myself and his dad wanted to do together. I am doing this for myself and my husband even though he cannot be here anymore. My house was big and empty, and it was nice to fill it up with young people, to be honest, because young people keep you young.
I left my current role to pursue fostering, and after approval, a few days later, three foster children came to live with me. I was 50 years old when I became a foster carer and had my son around, but he was grown up now. I have been with the Norfolk office at Nexus Fostering since the beginning it opened.
Which type of fostering have you done?
I have done nearly every type of fostering over the last 20 years. I've had mum and baby, known as parent and child fostering. I've had two babies for a short time. I have taken care of sibling groups and done a lot of respite to give the other foster carers a break. Then, I have supported teenagers, which has been very rewarding. I've helped look after 37 children, but they're not always with me long-term. Some of them were for a couple of hours, but I wrote them all down because I looked after them and loved them just as much no matter how long they were with me. Sometimes, it isn't easy, but you must try to understand them and put yourself in their shoes.
How did you find supporting the parents with their babies?
I enjoyed parent and child fostering. Each time, it was different depending on the parent or child's need and the level of support I was giving. I remember one time before I had to run the mum to a centre for learning during the day as she was still in education. I would do everything for the baby while she was away, and when she came home from school, she would take over. However, I would still be supporting her, so you are filling in that gap to care for the baby and help support the mother, which can come with its challenges when navigating roles, but each parent and child placement is unique in its own way. You are helping them learn skills and giving them a helping hand.
How did you support teenagers with their independence and prepare them for moving on to adulthood?
I would help them by ensuring they know how to cook and wash their clothes, although they would still try and get me to do it for them as any teenager would! They would know what to do with their banks, how to contact them, and have essential life skills. I have helped them learn about important things, the bigger world, and how to look out for themselves.
How have you managed to support children with family contact?
Family contact can be a mix of emotions. Sometimes, I would take the children, or the child's social worker would pick them up and take them for supervised contact.
I've had some of the children come back feeling angry after family contact. I would learn ways to help the children cope and find the best coping mechanism. A way I would help them manage would be to let them talk to me and get it off their chest straightaway. The children and young people must find out how they feel about family contact because you can't influence them. Sometimes, it is tough for the children to understand particular decisions that families can make. You have to be careful how you answer difficult questions and to think about it before answering on impulse.
How are you supporting your current foster child?
My current young person has been with me since 2015 and wants to go to university, so she can become a vet. She told me that even if she goes to university, she will return to mine on weekends or holidays.
She is doing well at college; we get praise from the tutors, and she's gained two distinctions. I am very proud of her. We recently went on our first holiday abroad together, which she loved and wasn't scared of flying. We enjoyed the sunshine and relaxing but also explored a new country. I loved creating those memories with her; they will last a lifetime. Before, we would and still go on the UK camping holidays and have lovely times together exploring the UK. I am glad I have been a part of helping her create special memories and achieve great things.
Do you keep in touch with your foster children?
The first children I looked after were siblings, an older brother and two younger sisters; I remember he used to try to take charge of a lot of things due to the situations they had faced as their parents were in hospital. He was trying to take responsibility for his two younger siblings, so I helped them to be children again. Then I had B, who is now in her 30s, and we are still in touch. We go out for meals, and she recently came to the Christmas party with Nexus Fostering. I am also very close to J, who I often see as he works at a local restaurant and always shouts 'hello, mum' when I pop in. I'm still in contact with three of my long-term foster children.
Has there been challenges to overcome?
When J came to me, it took him about six months to get used to me and to trust me, because he'd been pushed from pillar to post. We had some challenges as he sometimes tried to ruin things in the home. My family questioned my decision to foster and if I could cope, but at this point, I said I was not giving up, and within six months, it gradually calmed down. It took a little while, but it did. As a foster carer, you have to look at the bigger picture to see why these children behave like that; it's not their fault. It's because they have to learn to trust you.
I also recall when one of the young ladies I was looking after, once she left school and went to college, wanted to move on to support living. That was tough, but it is what is best for the young person, considering their needs and letting them make decisions for themselves.
When I started fostering my niece, who was young then and she took a few months to get used to having other children around as she spent a lot of time with me. So, she got used to it over the months and was quite happy to come around and play with the younger children and make friends.
What have been the biggest rewards of fostering for you personally?
It's seeing how the children you have looked after on a long-term basis leave with confidence and knowledge of going out into the big wide world. Knowing they are still in contact with me and still ring me up and ask how I am getting on is lovely. My nieces and nephews call my foster children their cousins, which is very special.
How would you sum up fostering?
It's dedication. You have to be dedicated and be caring and to be able to help young people and children. It is to prepare them for when they leave you. That is important, especially when looking after children long-term and seeing their growth over the years when they leave you. I love fostering, and to me, it's not a job. I love doing it. My current young person living with me said she would return to living with me and stay here until she becomes completely independent, which would be wonderful. In the meantime, I will continue to help other foster carers by offering respite care to continue helping others.
If you want to start your fostering career, get in touch to start helping children just like Davina.
19 December 2023