Davina and her partner Rick are foster carers in the Northampton area. Their foster child has been with them for eight years and they have a birth son of about the same age.
The couple previously worked in the prison service for many years, on a therapy unit for men with personality disorders. They lost count of the number of times prisoners said to them “if I had parents like you maybe my life would have turned out differently”.
It made them think and, when Davina left the prison service in 2012, they started to look into becoming foster carers.
A friendly family feel
As Davina and Rick began the application process, they were considering one particular fostering agency. However, this agency was based hundreds of miles away in the South West and it quickly became apparent that the couple needed one closer to home.
As they live in the East of England, they switched their application to Alliance Fostering, an independent fostering agency that has its headquarters in Northampton. They were attracted by the local team’s friendly family feel. Also, Alliance Fostering is part of National Fostering Group, which gives open access to all the resources of a large organisation.
Alliance Fostering is part of National Fostering Group, which gives open access to all the resources of a large organisation.
Davina explained that they had “a good feeling” about Alliance – a first impression that has proved to be accurate: they are still with the agency nine years on and have gone from strength to strength as foster carers.
Melted our hearts
Their birth son was only seven when they got their first foster child. They were keen to ensure that he wasn’t adversely affected by the arrival of an older child in the house so opted to care for someone younger than him.
Their first foster child was a little girl of two. Davina admitted it was “a shock to the system” at first as they had forgotten what it was like to have a toddler in the house.
“She quickly melted our hearts and, when it looked like she was going to go for adoption, we talked seriously about adopting her.”
“She quickly melted our hearts and, when it looked like she was going to go for adoption, we talked seriously about adopting her”
However, the courts decided that the little girl should be returned to her mother and she went back home three months later.
Davina described the experience as “simultaneously wonderful and heart-breaking” as they had formed a close bond with the little girl. She was able to hand the foster child back to mum, who said thank you for taking care of her.
All these years later, the girl is still at home with her mum and Davina and Rick are grateful for having done something positive to help.
Their next foster child was very different – a 15-year-old girl who had been separated from her seven siblings in order to give her a break from fulfilling the role of ‘mum’.
Although she was only with them for a very short time, she fitted in well and played with their birth child, who was upset when she left.
“It was at this point that we decided to go for a long-term placement as our son was struggling with having to say goodbye to the foster children so soon,” Davina said.
“We were offered a little boy of seven who had been put up for adoption but no one came forward. He was mixed race, like my partner, and their backgrounds were similar.
“We said yes and met him with his previous foster carer. That was eight years ago. He’s now nearly 15 and he’s become part of the family. He and our son are just 13 months apart and they are like brothers – they are so close, they do everything together.”
Growing in confidence
The best part about fostering for Davina and Rick has been watching their foster son develop and grow in confidence and maturity.
When he first arrived, he was very self-conscious and used to become tearful if people laughed, believing they were laughing at him.
By his final year at primary school, he’d grown in confidence so much he was able to perform on stage with a group of friends
By his final year at primary school, he’d grown in confidence so much he was able to perform on stage with a group of friends as The Spice Girls. He’s subsequently chosen to do a Drama GCSE and wants to go on to be a teacher.
Fostering is not without its frustrations, however, as Davina explained: “Often the system is reactive rather than proactive and that can be frustrating. We both come from a therapeutic background and there are interventions we would like to have make sooner but things tend to move quite slowly.”
However, the couple is full of praise for their foster agency and said the training has been helpful and the support they’ve received from their supervising social worker excellent.
“It’s not always easy but the rewards are really great”
Davina said: “It’s often the little things that make fostering the most worthwhile – seeing the children smile or hearing them laughing. It gives you a warm feeling to watch them flourish.
“As a foster carer you need plenty of patience, empathy and love. Non-judgment is essential too and it helped that we both worked in the prison service and had learned to support people without judging.
“If you’re starting out in fostering, I’d say stick with it. Don’t be afraid to say no to placements – you can’t rescue everyone and it’s better to say no to 10 and yes to one and for that placement to work out. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
“It’s not always easy but the rewards are really great.”