Take the plunge! If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you might have been wondering if becoming a foster carer is something that you can do. Well, the answer to this question is a resounding yes! Subject to all the required checks, there is no reason why anyone from the LGBT community cannot foster children or young people. The fact is that gay and lesbian people have already been adopting and fostering children for many years. It is a sad truth that people from this community have had to put up with prejudice from some quarters, but, hopefully this is declining as society recognises the unique contribution LGBT foster carers can make.
One gay foster carer explained his views on encountering prejudice – his opinion was that the world of foster care is made up from a cross section of society, meaning that a certain amount of prejudice will always be encountered. He felt that the most effective way of combating this is to put in extra work and proactively engage with all stakeholders concerned before a placement is agreed. It is important to make sure that the child or young person is asked if they object to being placed with a same sex couple. The foster carer said that it was always important to respect the child’s decision whichever way it went. He was convinced that asking the child and involving the social worker social worker at the same time was essential. The result for that gay foster carer was –
“we have never received any rebuttals from any of the children we have fostered, they have always not been bothered at all.”
Some foster carers have reported that some social workers have treated their interest in fostering with suspicion. What seems to work is to positively engage with social workers and; where there may be problems, is to demonstrate both knowledge of the law as well as the legal system as it applies to foster care. Doing this communicates resolve and intent: as a carer put it –
“We work hard to keep the lines of communication open, making sure that all stakeholders are kept fully informed about the progress of the children in our care. If there are no surprises and everyone is kept informed of what is going on and the lines of communication are firmly wide open, then everyone comes to the same conclusion – we are a safe pair of knowledgeable hands, we are child centred and proactive, capable of working most things out in a positive way and as such we avoid any negativity.”
Emotional resilience is the ‘buzz term’ in relation to key requirements foster carers need to have. There is a reason for this: more and more children coming into care are presenting with complex emotional needs and behavioural disorders. Many LGBT carers will have in their own life experiences struggled with issues of acceptance, stigma and identity. This means they have had to develop their own brand of emotional resilience to get through. Gay people can instinctively identify with a child or young person who feels rejected and stigmatised by being in care. This can create a powerful bond. It also means that LGBT foster carers, because of their own life experiences can provide exemplary role models. These are the kinds of subtle differences that tend to result in LGBT foster carers possessing unique attributes that set them apart: the following speaks volumes and shows how important it is that we attract more LGBT foster carers –
“As a gay couple we don’t try to be ‘Mum or Dad,’ they already have one of those, we try to give the child some space to explore who they are and show them who they could be, we protect them from the harsh world of the care system, fend off the intrusion and the times when they just want to weep from so much rejection. We lift them when they progress, carry them when they are down, encourage them to behave better, take away the conflict and replace it with hope and trust, show them they are not bound by their past only their hope for their own future….it isn’t rocket science….if you care you can!”
At Rainbow Fostering we couldn’t have a more appropriate name or image to welcome folk from the LGBT community into fostering. As some have thought, we are not an independent agency, especially for LGBT carers. No, we welcome applicants irrespective of their colour, religion, sexual orientation or status. We want to meet people who feel a sense of injustice on behalf of many children whose lives can appear hopeless to them. We can then mould this ‘passion to care’ by providing the best in up-to-date training and support. The result in so many instances is professional, resilient foster carers who really do transform the lives of children. And every time we add to it, we experience a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Why? Because having more foster carers can make all the difference to the ‘life chances’ of some very vulnerable youngsters. Our carers have come from many cultural traditions and walks of life. Many have fascinating stories to tell – as well as being inspirational people.
The Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge in 2010 conducted interviews for Stonewall with eighty two children and young people who have lesbian, gay or bisexual parents. The intention was to learn more about their experiences, both at home as well as at school. The study found that:
• children with gay parents like having gay parents and would not want things to change, but they expressed the wish that sometimes other people were more accepting;
• very young children with gay parents tend not to see their families as being any different to those of their peer group;
• many of the older children said they saw their families as special and different, but only because all families are special and different: some felt that their families were a lot closer than other people’s families.
Research carried out in 2013 for BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering) by Cambridge University into adoptive families headed by same-sex couples painted a positive picture of relationships and well being in these families. The study suggested that families with gay fathers seem to be faring particularly well.
In-depth research into the experiences of adoptive families headed by same-sex couples suggests that children adopted by gay or lesbian couples are just as likely to thrive as those adopted by heterosexual couples. It also reveals that new families cope just as well as traditional families with the big challenges that come with taking on children who have had a poor start in life.
The wider support available for LGBT foster carers
At Rainbow Fostering we value all the organisations doing sterling work to support foster carers from the LGBT community. We actively sign post applicants to these bodies as they offer a wealth of knowledge and experience – as well as a broad perspective on all the issues concerning fostering. These include Fosterline, CoramBAAF Adoption and Fostering Academy, Stonewall and New Family Social. This last self-help organisation was formed in 2007 – it came out of a need for LGBT foster carers and adopters to provide support as well as giving their children confidence through knowing about families similar to theirs. Visit their website to discover the help and support that they make available http://www.newfamilysocial.org.uk/
Names have been withheld to respect confidentiality
Thinking of transferring to another fostering agency?
If you are already a foster carer (and already with a long term foster placement), Rainbow will make the process of transferring efficient and trouble free. Joining us here at Rainbow, also means you may be eligible for a special ‘Rainbow Reward’ bonus: more information on this scheme can be gained by calling 020 8427 3355. Rainbow also pay a bonus of £500 if you are a foster carer and can refer an acquaintance to take up fostering. You will receive the bonus once their training is completed and they have received their first placement.
In the news: latest foster care news story
Final sessions of foster care inquiry completed
November 17th, 2017
This key inquiry had been suspended earlier in the year because of the General Election. The last two sessions of the foster care inquiry have taken place. The Committee has already heard evidence from a range of bodies. These include universities, local authorities, foster care service providers and fostering organisations (more)
And the good news at the end of this November Rainbow…we have a ‘new look’ birthday card ready to send out on those special days for our children!