‘Laura needed my unconditional love’
Bev Stoakes, 57, is a full-time foster carer who has provided a home to over 90 vulnerable children over the past decade including Laura dodds, now 21, who came to her aged 17. Bev has two grown-up children from a former marriage and lives in coventry. i’ve always loved having young people around so when my daughter left home in 2008 the house seemed empty. i got into fostering with Barnardo’s because my friend who lives next door was already working with them and i’d seen the great work she did with children in her care. i had a spare room going so thought, “why not?” i had no idea back then that it would prove so challenging – and so rewarding. nor that i’d become so attached to the children who come to me looking for a safe space. i’m still in touch with many of them and, as for laura, i consider her family.
laura was taken into care before the age of two. By the time she came through my door age 17 she had been in 50 foster homes and was a troubled young lady in a difficult situation. she understandably had difficulty trusting and forming healthy relationships and couldn’t accept authority, but when she saw me she said, “i told you i’d end up living with you!” i realised she and i had met four years earlier when, as a friend of a lad i was fostering, she had jumped into the back of my car and asked if she could come and live with me too. Her friend had told her good things about me and they’d concocted a plan to get me to take her in, but i had to explain it didn’t work like that.
But four years later, there she was – in my front room! From the beginning we had lots in common and we’d spend hours talking things over. sometimes i could help, sometimes i couldn’t, but i always offered a shoulder to cry on. she was mostly very respectful, but that’s not to say we always saw eye to eye – teenagers are testing at the best of times! But you have to learn not to take it personally and to separate the behaviour from the person. a lot of foster children make bad choices, but that doesn’t make them bad people.
i have learned never to be judgemental and instead to offer unconditional loving care. laura responded amazingly to my strategy and we have a strong bond.
i actually see more of her than i do my own daughter since she and tom, her fiancé, live on the same street as me now. the way she has turned her life around is amazing – she’s helping other young people through her volunteer work with the Prince’s trust and she’s a fantastic mum to her two-year-old daughter starsha. i’m so proud of the woman she’s become.
‘I’m so proud of how she’s turned her life around’
Bev, left, and Laura have a strong bond