A mother from North Nottinghamshire who made the decision to provide a loving and safe home for two siblings, has called for people across the region to open their homes to the region’s vulnerable children and young people.
Nina Severn, 50, started her fostering career earlier this year and is currently looking after two siblings on a long-term placement which means the children will remain in her care until they can live independently as adults.
Nina first considered fostering in 2011 when her five biological children grew older and started to live more independently. At that time, Nina came close to fostering but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right moment in her life.
Seven years later, Nina met a foster carer through work, who told her about Five Rivers Child Care, a fostering agency and social enterprise with an office in Chesterfield. She recalls: “Part of my job now as a forensic sampler is to visit children and young people and I’ve met so many inspiring foster carers who have dedicated their lives to supporting those who need it most. At the end of last year, I ended up speaking to a mother who had just started fostering with Five Rivers, and after hearing her story, I felt it was the right time to consider fostering again.”
At the start of 2019, Nina contacted Five Rivers and she and her husband, Alan, started the application process and training programme to become full-time foster carers. In September, the couple were told they would receive their first placement within the next two months. Seven weeks later, they welcomed siblings Lily*, 10, and Lucas*, 11, into their home.
Nina said: “When the children first arrived, Lily walked in and looked around and said, ‘I want to live here’. Lucas said he was happy he and his sister could live in our home forever. I had tears rolling down my cheeks.”
Speaking of her decision to foster, Nina said: “I felt alone after my own children moved out and became more independent, I missed the busy times and the school runs – the house felt empty. I took on a second job as a phlebotomist with the NHS, but I still felt like something was missing from my life. Lily and Lucas have only been with us for a short period of time, but the house is full, and I feel like I have a purpose again.”
Nina’s decision to foster has been supported by her five children, including her 25-year-old son, Thomas, who still lives in the family home and helps his mum with the two youngsters. On Thomas’ relationship with Lily and Lucas, Nina said: “I think Thomas was taken aback at first at how involved Lily and Lucas wanted to be in his life. To see him participate in arts and crafts and spend time getting to know Lily and Lucas has been just lovely.”
Alongside arts and crafts, reading books and making trips to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, the family enjoys spending time together outside with the animals that live on their property. The Severn house is home to 40 chickens, 20 guineafowl, 16 goats, 3 horses, 3 geese, 2 working dogs, 2 cats and a house dog.
Nina said: “Animal relationships can be therapeutic for anyone. But for children who have been in and out of foster care, being around animals can provide a feeling of calm and reduce anxiety and fear. Lily and Lucas spend lots of time outside with the animals, caring for them and feeding them. Our goats and chickens will be having babies in the spring and Lily and Lucas are beyond excited.”
Nina and her husband Alan regularly attend Five Rivers training courses and have increased their skills in safeguarding and have participated in courses including first aid and diversity, equality and radicalisation. Nina commented: “The training courses have been very beneficial, I think the more courses you do, the better equipped you are as a foster carer. It is also a great place to meet other carers and build a support network that’s outside of your direct circle with family and friends and with people who are going through similar experiences as you.”
In Nottinghamshire, there are currently 600** children in foster care, but a further 550*** foster carers are needed across the East Midlands to meet demand and help support vulnerable children and young adults.
People from all walks of life can become foster carers as long as they are over 21 years of age. This includes single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation. The only requirement is a spare room for each foster child.
On advice to prospective foster carers, Nina said: “If you are loving and caring and think you can give someone a great future, a career in foster care is for you. I’m passionate to make a difference in Lily and Lucas’ lives and help and nurture them to strive to have a great future. It goes without saying, Five Rivers’ round-the-clock support and 24/7 availability has positively influenced my role as a carer and foster mum for Lily and Lucas.”