‘Laura needed my un­con­di­tional love’

Woman & Home - - In Our Experience -

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

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