Earlier this month, we were honoured to have a stand at Brighton Pride, where our Southern Counties staff and foster carers came together to encourage others within the LGBTQ+ community to consider fostering.
There are thousands of children who need a stable, loving home and we believe that a person’s sexuality is irrelevant. We have many same-sex foster carers within our fostering family and urge more people to step forward. Simon and James, who have been fostering with us since 2016, share their experience.
We had always loved the idea of fostering children and we were quite specific about wanting to foster and not adopt. There are so many children out there who desperately need love and we really want to focus on helping and supporting children through difficult times. I was about 18 when I first realised I wanted to foster. I worked in a children’s hospital and one day I met a little boy who was up for adoption. I remember thinking that I would love to be able to help him, but I lived in a tiny flat and I simply wasn’t in an emotionally stable state. I never forgot that little boy.
I married James 4 years ago and we got to a place where we felt financially secure and ready to start the foster care process. We actually found the application very intrusive – you have to be very willing and open and you can’t hide anything. For example, I was asked about my childhood and then the agency rang my sister to make sure it was true – I was quite shocked by it but at the same time we completely understood why it’s so important to be so thorough.
One of the things that I remember finding really useful was having foster carers on our training courses, in fact, I was so impressed that I am now also a trainer helping new foster carers.
James and I have been fostering for three years and in that time, we’ve fostered 7 children and while it is one of the most rewarding things you can do, it can also be incredibly emotional. Our longest placement was a 5 year old who stayed with us for two years.
He’d had an incredibly difficult first few years to his life. When he arrived he couldn’t walk straight, he couldn’t use a knife and fork and most distressingly, he couldn’t or wouldn’t laugh. It took us about two months to get him to a stage where he would simply smile and laugh. It was so incredible to see how much he changed with some love, encouragement and stability. One of the best bits for us was watching as he became proud of himself and his achievements and to see him expressing himself.
If I could give people thinking about becoming a foster carer some advice, I would say don’t have any expectations because they will almost certainly be wrong. Don’t think you can simply give a child a nice bedroom and a good meal and they’ll be grateful because initially they’ll probably throw the food at you and sleep on the floor. You can’t help some of these children by just giving them nice things…it takes time, patience and dedication. All that matters is making the child feel safe and secure and then you can work on the rest of it.
We’ve had a lot of support from Orange Grove and a back up carer, which is fantastic. We also have a support worker who is amazing, but you also need a network of people who understand, so we’re friendly with lots of other foster carers. Life as a foster carer can be quite isolating, and you have to prove you have a good support system in place before you’re accepted.
Some of our placements have been quite violent and challenging but you just have to keep an open mind and stay on their level and remind yourself why you became a foster carer in the first place and why the child is with you. You have to be open to accepting support especially when children move on because you do get attached.
As a same-sex couple, we have had no prejudice at all, in fact, there are meeting groups for gay foster carers but we haven’t felt like we needed to attend those as we have lots of support in place already. My advice to anyone in a same sex relationship would be to go into it as if you’re a straight couple but if you do get any issues report it straight to your social worker and keep a record of everything. It’s also important to remember why you’re fostering in the first place…these children need fantastic, loving homes and your sexuality shouldn’t come into that.
Simon and James are currently fostering in Brighton and Hove. If you’d like to transform the lives of children in your local community, then we’d love to hear from you.