Daveena Lawlor

It starts with family—Des and Daveena’s story

The world needs people to help people and the children are the future — so help them have a better future.

Des has always been a big kid at heart and when his own children grew up and moved out, he missed having kids around. Daveena had their son, Deegan, at 42 years of age and he was growing up as if he was an only child. Together, the couple thought about either getting into a bus and travelling around Australia with Deegan or becoming foster carers, something they had always wanted to do — they chose to become foster carers.

“You don't need a degree to do it. You just do the foster care training. Your heart has got to be in it to really be ready,” says Daveena.

“So we did our training. We got our certificate on the Friday and straight into it on the Monday, and it’s just been awesome.”

“Of course there are ups and downs to foster care, but there are more ups than downs. I wouldn’t change my life at all.”

The couple see it as very important to keep families together, because they couldn't imagine not having their own family together. But while children are in their care, they treat them like their own family.

 “We've always said to them, "You're our family. This is your brother. This is your sister.” It's not foster brother or foster sister," says Des.

“While they’re with us, they’re loved and we’re going to give them the best life that we can while they’re here,” agrees Daveena.

“We have six foster kids at the moment. We didn’t plan on that, but one family is four of the children,” laughs Des.

Des and Daveena started with two kids from the same family and then another came into care. The couple didn't want the family to split up so took him in as well. Seven months later, their baby sister was born and they thought they couldn’t start splitting the family up now, so they also accepted her into their ever-growing family.

Another child was having some difficulties settling in with his foster families. The couple knew the boy from one of the other foster children who came to spend weekends with them. Des and Daveena saw the pain that he was going through and talked with the department about bringing him into their home too.

“If we had a bigger house, there’d probably be more,” says Daveena.

Des and Daveena welcome their foster kids with open arms. They agree that some days can get very chaotic. But many years later, Des and Daveena are still foster carers and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Their favourite part is seeing what the children were like when they first arrived, and what they are now, and they’re so proud.

“The best thing is these kids telling me several times a day, ’I love you’. It never gets old. It's a beautiful thing to hear,” says Des.

“To see the difference in the kids, to see how they've gone from being traumatised and having the problems that trauma brings to having a teacher saying they're doing a great job, that's what it's all about.

“It might not fix all their problems, but you can give them a normal life.”

More than a third of children and young people in care identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. When these children and young people need foster care, the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women tries to ensure their cultural identity and relationship with their families and communities are maintained.

“It's important for Indigenous children to go to Indigenous carers. We really need Indigenous carers to keep the culture going. Indigenous carers understand Indigenous children,” says Daveena.

“We understand the Indigenous way of life. From the heart, we know. The culture's going. The stories aren't being told any more. We need that. I think it's very important for the children to know where they're from and to be proud of who they are and their kin.”

The couple urges anyone who's considering becoming a foster carer that if they've got a place in their home and their heart for a child, then to please do it.

“The world needs people to help people, and the children are the future — so help them have a better future,” asserts Des.

“To be able to help break that chain and give them, even if it's only for a few years, just a bit of normality and show them what life is supposed to be like, then you’ve made a difference in their life. It makes me feel very proud.”

“Foster care is an awesome thing. Just the love from these children is just amazing. I'd be lost without them,” says Daveena.