As part of our LGBT series of blogs, we speak to foster carer Simon (50) who has been fostering teenagers with his partner Rob (also 50) for 4 years.
How long have you been fostering and how many children have you fostered so far?
We’ve been fostering male teenagers and unaccompanied asylum seekers for 4 years and have looked after 5 children, mostly on long term respite arrangements where we have them every weekend and during the school holidays.
Why did you decide to foster?
We’d had an amazing life; enjoying lots of lovely holidays, a wonderful circle of friends and a brilliant social life. We just felt the time was right in our lives to try and make a difference to a child’s life and give something back. We decided to move house so we would have more room to foster, we had a lovely home and we were really ready for a life change.
Why did you decide to foster and rather than adopt?
We looked into both options but felt that we’d get much more support and training with fostering and it seemed more flexible as with respite foster care we could both continue with our jobs which was important to us. The financial aspect of fostering was important too and although obviously not the main motivation, it was a factor to consider. We realised that the children, whether fostered or adopted, are coming through the same system and have the same needs and we felt with fostering we could help more than one child. We also felt fostering would be a good chance to build our confidence, learn about the system and working with social workers and professionals, receive lots of training and then we could go onto adoption afterwards if we felt it was the right thing to do.
How did you find the application process?
I actually found the process really therapeutic and I enjoyed it as it unpicks the past and you find out so much about yourself and your behaviours in the process. Even though myself and my partner had known each other for 20 years, we found out new things about each other which was so interesting and I also found out new things about my parents as they were one of my referees. You build a close relationship with your assessing social worker as you’re revealing very personal things to them and they stay with you through the entire 6 months or duration of your assessment.
What has been the best thing about fostering?
There have been so many highlights, it has been amazing. I think my favourite part of fostering has been doing activities with the children that they have never done before such a cooking for friends, camping and going on holiday. It was incredibly moving and totally unexpected when our foster son stood up and did a speech at our wedding. He said that his two dads had transformed his life and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room! Also it was interesting as he had never seen happy tears before and he couldn’t understand why everyone was crying so this was so insightful and heartbreaking too.
What has been the most difficult thing about fostering?
Saying goodbye to the children is always difficult, even when you know it’s right for them to move on. If things don’t work out in a placement you can feel like you’ve failed but you have to remind yourself you did as much as you could.
As a same sex couple have you encountered any issues or discrimination?
Not at all. It has actually been a really positive thing, especially when the child may not have had a male role model or father in their life or they may have a challenging relationship with their mother so we can offer a different perspective and support. We are an affectionate couple and we definitely had some concerns about how to manage that at home but you just become mindful in the same way as you would as a straight couple fostering. We have never had any issues regarding our sexuality from the children or their birth families and I think this may be misplaced concern about fostering as a same sex couple.
What advice would you give to an LGBT person or family considering fostering?
Give it a go! You’ll get amazing training and support, learn so much about yourself in the process and be helping a child in need. You need a supportive family around you, a sense of humour and an appreciation that things do always go to plan but you will be supported throughout. If you’re fostering with a partner make sure you make time for yourselves, keep communication open and keep laughing during challenging times. Also I would say that the referrals for a child often don’t paint a fair picture and can be a bit skewed towards the negative. Most of the children are loving, engaging and just craving stability and nurture.
To find out more about fostering and whether it might be right for you, call us for an informal chat on 01273 295444
Our next LGBT info session is Tues 3rd October at 6.30pm at The Sussex Cricket Club.