Foster carers are needed as never before. This year the country is short of over 8,000 fostering families. And recruiting foster carers is becoming increasingly challenging. Where should we be looking to address this pressing problem? Foster care has been described as challenging for a long time. And the nature of the challenge is growing and changing – rapidly. It is now a well-known fact that sixty-five per cent of children and young people now coming into care are suffering from trauma. This has been caused by different types of abuse and/or neglect. This means that foster carers now need increasing amounts of specialist training in order to provide the right kind of care
The nation’s foster parents come from a very wide range of backgrounds. Every agency and local authority will; in aiming to find more applicants, push broadly similar recruitment messages. Mostly they are along the lines of: “we welcome applications to foster from people whether they are gay, straight, married, divorced or cohabiting. Additionally, we are keen to attract foster parents from all the different communities that make up our diverse nation. This is because you will be welcomed to foster whatever your ethnicity or cultural background. This is especially the case because culturally matched foster placements have a higher chance of being stable.
In terms of the language used to target the LGBT+ community, it would be hard to imagine terms like ‘same-sex’, ’gay’, ‘transexual’ or bi-sexual being used in the Britain of the nineteen-sixties. It would have caused an immediate furore. Today, the fact we can absorb general recruitment messages for all professions using such terminology tells us all just how far society has come in the intervening decades. Our world has changed – and very much for the better. This is timely because at this moment in time IFAs and Local Authorities need to send positive messages to the gay community about the contribution they can make by becoming foster carers.
Our society continues to be in a rapid state of flux. This is shown in how the boundaries of inclusivity are being reframed at lightning speed. The enduringly iconic rainbow flag is now being revamped to incorporate both a brown and black stripe. And the changes do not stop here. Soon it will also include a triangular element to represent trans people. This means those charged with finding more fostering applicants will be able to consider new and emerging groups with some still being redefined.
Ultimately, this means that the community of foster carers in Britain is a tremendous asset and resource. The fact it includes people from the most amazing array of backgrounds, experiences, gender types and sexual orientations is a great strength. There is so much potential if we can in the coming years create a cadre of foster carers from our gay community all united in achieving the goal of offering loving, stable homes – as well as security – to some of the most vulnerable children in the country.
There should be much more support from the Government in terms of sending strong signals to our lesbian and gay communities. We need them to understand the amazing contribution they could be making to addressing the shortage of foster parents. The power of the ’Pink Pound’ is a well-known fact. There are a huge number of gay and lesbian people filling the professions in this country – which shouldn’t be a surprise at all. And we do know that the foster carers we need to recruit are going to be required to be increasingly professional in their approach to fostering. This is driven by the simple fact that so many children are arriving in care are traumatised and require ‘therapeutic fostering’.
Time moves forward quickly: now is ‘LGBT’ as a category is gone. The latest category is LGBTTQQI2SAAP. These initials stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex 2 spirits, asexual, allies and pansexual. At the end of the day, these are just labels. The most important point to be made is that foster carers, however they identify, need to have one thing in common: an overriding interest in the wellbeing of the children and young people they look after. Gays and lesbian people can have very different motivations to foster because of their experiences. On a basic level, gay parents – as Abbie Goldberg – a psychologist at Clark University in Massachusetts has said – “tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to become parents.” And continuing “Gays and lesbians rarely become parents by accident, compared with an almost fifty per cent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals and that translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement.” and “there is also some past research to indicate that children being looked after by gay foster parents show a greater tendency for open-mindedness and tolerance.”
Attitudes to same-sex couples fostering are happily changing – and this is happening more quickly as time moves on. But it is only as recently as 2013 that research by Action for Children highlighted that 32% of LGBT people in the country thought that same-sex couples were prohibited from fostering. Interestingly in an NFS – New Family Social – survey of 400 LGBT adopters and foster carers conducted in 21012, 33 per cent of those responding reported the process would have been less difficult if they had been heterosexual.
In England there were 450 adoptions by same-sex couples; in Scotland there were 17 and in Wales there were 30. With more foster parents from the LGBT+ community, it is possible that the shortage of carers could be brought to an end.
Tor Docherty who is New Family Social chief executive stated:
“This year we’re sharing ten good reasons why LGBT people should consider adopting and fostering – but there are many, many more. We’re delighted that the proportion of same-sex couples adopting in Wales rose to an all-time high last year – but there is still much work to be done to support and encourage LGBT people to adopt and foster, wherever they are in the UK.”
He also stated:
“We do sometimes hear from our members that they aren’t having an easy time being assessed or matched. Problems can be down to individual social workers. there are pockets of bad practice, but that’s a minority, and there is also excellent practice.”
And encouragingly there is a lot of evidence coming in that positive attitudes have increased. Another survey from NFS revealed that three-quarters of social workers felt that the openness to difference made lesbian and gay couples ability to support a youngster with a sense of difference, was a real strength. Tor Doherty said:
‘We know that LGBT people can be particularly resilient as adopters.” It is reasonable to presume that the same will apply to foster carers.
To find out more about LGBT rights visit – https://www.amnestyusa.org/the-state-of-lgbt-rights-worldwide/
If you are a member of the LGBT+ community foster with Rainbow.
Today in this country there is a pressing shortage of foster parents. Roughly 8,600 new foster families still need to be found. This means that the contribution same-sex couples could potentially make is enormous. The Department of Education indicated that in England – between April 2014 – March 2015, 8.44% of adoptions were by same-sex couples. This figure was up from just 3.27% in 2011 which is a significant rise.
If you have been considering fostering and are a member of the LGBT+ community we would like to hear from you. To foster with Rainbow you need to be over 21 and have a spare room available for a child to use. You can call 020 8427 3355 or our National Line 0330 311 2845 for detailed information on what a professional career in foster care can offer you. There is no obligation and we are happy to chat with you about all the different aspects of fostering. If you decide to proceed, the next stage will be a home visit. The whole process of becoming an approved foster carer can take as little as sixteen weeks.
You might wish to visit these pages on our website – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/supporting-lgbt-foster-care-week/ as well as – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/lgbt-foster-carers/ Rainbow Fostering also have a bonus scheme for existing foster carers. If you are a foster carer able to refer a friend or acquaintance to become a carer you will receive payment of £500 once carers you referred have accepted their first placement.