The sixth LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week closed on Sunday 12 March. Reaching a record number of LGBT potential adoptive parents and foster carers, the campaign’s twitter hashtags – #proudtoadopt and #proudtofoster – reached over 33 million people during the campaign week. The week brought together adoption and foster care agencies from across the United Kingdom, with information sessions stretching across the country. Over 100 prospective parents and carers joined New Family Social at special information events in London and Manchester. Prior to both of these adoption and foster care professionals heard about the latest good practice about working with LGBT people.
Some 45 adoption and foster care agencies and umbrella organisations from across Britain used tailored graphics to say they were proud to support LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week*.
The week also saw the launch of New Family Social’s film encouraging more trans people to explore adoption and fostering. The film was well-received with over 650 views in the first week.
Media coverage saw pieces appearing in the local media from Brighton to Barnsley. Backed by an ad campaign on Gaydio there was also coverage on Pink News, Gay Star News and GScene all helping the campaign reach their readers.
There’s still time to find out more about LGBT adoption & fostering as there are information events still taking place. You can find the nearest to you on the ‘In your area’ section on this website.
*Those agencies were: Action for Children, Adopt South West, Adopt Together, Adopters For Adoption, Adoption Matters, Anchor Fostercare, Barnsley Council, Barnardo’s North East, Bristol City Council, Caldecott Fostering, Capstone Foster Care, Caritas Care, Carmarthen Council, CoramBAAF, The Children’s Family Trust, Coventry City Council, Devon Adoption, DFW Adoption, Essex County Council, Families For Children Trust, Family Care, Five Rivers, Foster Care Associates Scotland, Gloucestershire County Council, Hackney Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Lincolnshire Council, Medway Council, NAFP (Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers), National Adoption Service (Wales), Nexus Fostering, Norfolk County Council, Northamptonshire County Council, North London Consortium, PACT, Salford City Council, Scottish Adoption, Southampton City Council, St Andrew’s Children’s Society, Stockport Council, Suffolk County Council, Thurrock Council, Together Trust, West Sussex County Council, Wiltshire County Council
Fostering News: A gay couple from Brighton open up to Pink News about their experience of being foster parents for the last 22 years.
“You need to be able to offer emotional and practical support which they’ve often never had before. Sometimes the simplest things like buying new clothes that fit them and having an evening meal every night together at the same time will provide such pleasure for the children.”
The pair said that the most rewarding part of the job is getting to see the kids turn into adults.
“When you see them get jobs or go to college or university, it’s great to have been part of this development,” Chris said. “Seeing them create bonds with the other children we foster. We have such a large extended family now and are in touch with all of the children we’ve fostered. Kiiran and Chris have fostered 11 young people in the city from a variety different backgrounds.
The couple even adopted one of the foster children who came into their care, who has since got married and had a child of their own.
The two spoke to Brighton and Hove independent about the children that they’ve helped along in there transformative journey, and the tears and laughter they have experienced along the way.
“I was lucky to grow up in a house that was always busy and always supportive to friends and family going through difficult times,” said Kieran. “Fostering seemed like a natural fit for Chris and I.
The two used to lived in London and felt they should begin to foster children because they had “done everything we wanted to for ourselves” and felt it was “time to give something back”.
Chris said that he learnt he had to be “tolerant, patient and have a sense of humour” to be able to foster the children.
Kieran recalled their adopted son’s wedding: “The best man was one of our other foster children as were two of the ushers. It’s wonderful to see how our foster children are so close, they may have nothing in common to begin with except us but then they share this bond and look out for each other.”
The couple offered up some advice for other couples who think they might follow suit.
“You’re not going to be able to change things overnight. Be patient, stick with it, recognise you’re in it for the long haul and establish boundaries and expectations at the beginning.
“Enjoy the experience moment to moment. Have fun and laugh lots.”
FtSE Member News: The Children's Family Trust - LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week Special: We want to be Foster Carers
Now in the process as being assessed as Foster Carers – same sex couple Stewart & James share their experience of why they want to foster a child and what attracted them to The Children’s Family Trust…
“The reason’s we want to foster are, as a couple we feel we have so much to give a child or children that need some support as they go through or have been through some difficult times.
I have a daughter and I’ve fostered before when in a previous relationship and I feel I made a difference to the children’s lives when they came to stay with me and my wife.
Although my current partner, James does not have any children of his own he has always wanted to benefit a child’s life in some way. When we met, he instinctively thought of my daughter as being his own and he sees her as his responsibility and shows his love towards her.
We chose the Children’s Family Trust simply because they popped up on my Facebook feed and at the time we were considering fostering, but as a couple we were worried as being gay males that this may not be possible. We know that everyone is considered as “equal” but we were still unsure. After speaking to Julia Robertson, Registered Manager of the North East Team, we were reassured that being a gay male couple would not be a barrier to us fostering.
We don’t feel that being gay should stop us from fostering but we understand that we are not the stereotypical idea of a family; however we still have a lot of love, time, support and guidance to give a child who needs it.
We realise that if we are approved as foster carers, we may come in for some discrimination from others who do not agree with this as there is no female figure within our home, however society seems to be more accepting of LGBTQ individuals and we hope that they will see us as the loving and caring couple that we are – a couple who are able to provide the love care and stability that a child needs to support their development.”
At The Children’s Family Trust, we believe that giving a safe and loving home to a child is the most important thing a Foster Carer can do. If you think you, or someone you know, have the passion & qualities to become a Foster Carer, please contact us on 0300 111 1945 to find out more.
Study shows almost 25% of girls in care were unhappy with their lives compared to 14% for all girls
Girls who are in care feel the stigma of their situation more keenly than boys, are much more likely to worry about their appearance and less likely to enjoy school, a study has revealed.
The study found that girls aged 11-18 in care were less likely to say life was worthwhile and were more negative about the future than boys.
Both boys and girls in care expressed concern at how often the professionals who look after them move on with almost a third of 11-18-year-olds reporting they were allocated three or more different social workers within a year.
Half of younger children, aged four to seven, and more than a quarter of teenagers did not fully understand why they were in care, according to the study Our Lives Our Care from the University of Bristol’s Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies and the children’s rights charity Coram Voice.
Its aim was to find out how the 70,000 looked after children in England alone viewed their lives.
While the Department for Education publishes “outcome” data on looked after children’s education, offending, mental health, and number of teenage pregnancies, there is no information collected on how children themselves feel about their well-being and their lives in care.
The study found some positives, with 80% of the 611 children from six local authority areas who took part in the study reporting that being in care had improved their lives. More than 90% said they trusted their carers.
But girls were less positive than boys. While the rate of looked after boys who expressed unhappiness at their lives was around the same as boys in the general population, almost a quarter of girls in care reported dissatisfaction compared with 14% for all girls.
Girls were more likely to comment on how being in care made them feel different. One girl, who was in the 11-18 age bracket, said she wanted to be: “A normal child. Not having to get permission to go on school trips, holidays and staying at friends’ houses.” Twenty three per cent of girls said they were unhappy with their appearance – against 14% in the general population.
Not knowing exactly why they are in care was flagged up by many. One young person (11-18 years) wrote: “I would like someone to talk to about my feelings and tell me about my past. I would like to see a picture of my dad so I know what he looks like. I would like to see a picture of me as a baby. I have never seen a picture of me. I have a lot of questions that no one answers.”
Children highlighted the importance of having a trusted adult in their lives. But nearly a third of those aged 11-18 reported that they had been allocated three or more different social workers in the year. One young person’s response to a question asking “What would make care better?” wrote: “By not having 14 social workers in three years.”
Julie Selwyn, director of the Hadley Centre and lead author of the study, said: “The results raise important questions about the difference in caring for girls and boys and supports the need for a more ‘gender aware’ approach to be taken. The findings highlight the need for more continuity of social workers and show that efforts to support children in care are having positive outcomes.”
Carol Homden, chief executive officer of Coram said: “It is incredibly heartening that such large majority of looked after children feel that their lives have improved since coming into care and this is a testimony to the commitment of many local authorities to the children for whom they are the ‘corporate parent’.
“However there is still much that we all need to do to improve the wellbeing and life chances of looked after children and ensure they have the support and reassurance they need to successfully make their way in the world.”
My partner and I are foster carers and I write on behalf of fostering and adoption charity TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust).
Bob and I had planned for quite a while to become foster carers and purposely bought a bigger house. Soon after we had been cleared to foster we went from zero children to three siblings, which was a bit of a shock to the system. Our daily routines changed drastically, and there was an overwhelming sense of responsibility knowing that we had to look after these three little people.
The first few weeks were hectic - meeting with the school, social workers, opticians, GPs, dentist etc.,
Fortunately our families are very supportive and helped us immensely. We were also blessed with working alongside brilliant social workers both at our fostering agency TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) and Local Authority Social Services, they have all helped us so much.
We have four Miniature Schnauzers - Arthur, Betty, Margaret and Mary. At first the children were petrified of them, but now each has a favourite. The dogs helped them to develop an element of responsibility, as they recognise when they need to be fed and cared for and often act upon this.
It has now been two years since the children came into our lives and we still love fostering as much we did on day one. Happily, about a year ago the children were placed with us permanently, which enabled us to plan our futures and think about what steps to take next in being able to really give the children the best possible start in life.
As a family we have developed and learned so much about each other and ourselves. We have discovered that children don’t really want materialistic things in life, they would much prefer having time spent with them. By offering them our time and attention they have really blossomed as individuals. We found that education isn’t just gained in school, holidays, meals in restaurants, trips to the park or even just visiting friends and family all enabled the children to learn new things.
It’s been a real pleasure to watch the children gain confidence and grow into the people that they are today. Each of them has succeeded in their own way, from learning to read, interacting with others, performing on stage and horse riding to name a few achievements. The children are doing fantastically well in school - one has moved to high school and one moved into a new school which is closer to our home. Having three children in three different schools can be a logistical nightmare at times, but we took the decision to do that as we believed it was the right step to take to improve their education.
Bob and I are getting married in October and it will be a real family affair, with the two boys as our best men and the girl as our bridesmaid.
We both feel an immense sense of pride in being able to have such a positive impact on the lives of children who may have been through trauma. It is hard work, and at times we are faced with challenges, however that is part and parcel of being a foster carer. The children have enriched our lives beyond recognition, and we would recommend becoming a foster carer to anybody.
Children in care are too often seen as delinquents, and the shame lingers into adulthood. Those with experience must challenge this by sharing their stories
All too often, children in care are seen as dangerous, delinquent or damaged goods. The circumstances of their early life, which are likely to include trauma, abuse and neglect, are commonly forgotten. Instead, we see communities protesting against residential care homes being built in their neighbourhood. We think children in care are there because they have somehow played a part in their fate. They’ve become a number, a case, a file.
Being in care often intensifies, instead of soothing, early trauma. The stigma of having been in care adds to this burden.
I entered the care system on my 11th birthday. It’s something I’ve carried with me ever since. I used to do everything I could to hide my care identity. It is hard to break free from your past and to be open with people when you desperately need support.
It’s well documented that consistent, nurturing and authentic relationships help vulnerable children to overcome early abuse. Unfortunately my local authority had a high turnover of social workers. I never had the same person for long enough to build a proper relationship. And even so, those allocated to me rarely visited. There are several instances in my case files of social workers cancelling visits because I was “doing well at school” and “was happy, according to his foster parents”. My wellbeing was speculated about from afar.
My teachers at school were really supportive, but I still felt the need to hide the fact I was in care. What if school friends found out? What if the stereotypes of failure became a self-fulfilling prophecy? I wasn’t willing to take that risk. Rejection, uncertainty and a lack of love can be extremely isolating. I still felt the weight of the label when I went to university. The sense of guilt, shame and unworthiness were so deep-rooted that I concealed my care experience into adulthood. My life was a charade.
It’s commonly stated that those with care experiences are more likely to go to prison than university, are more likely to have a diagnosable mental health issue, and face worse outcomes. More work is needed to establish definite statistics around this; but much more work needs to take place to ensure that the voices of those who have experienced care are included in this.
Assumptions (in the absence of qualitative richness) lead some parts of society to believe that children in care belong to a form of underclass. The offspring of delinquents, who deserve to feel the way I felt. I was extremely aware of the stereotypes of what care experienced adults turn out like and I felt like I constantly needed to blend in with others not to become a statistic.
Thankfully, I’m now in a position to use my experience to challenge this perception. We must stop sending these damning messages to some of the most vulnerable children at times of real uncertainty in their lives.
The reality is that the vast majority of looked-after children are in care through no fault of their own – and I believe we need to do more to help young people own their care identities. At the age of 27, I finally started to do so and joined the looked-after children’s sector. My experience in care no longer overwhelms me and I no longer feel the need to hide it: it has grown into wings that help me to fly.
I’m often asked what people can do to change things. All you need to do is speak to, read about and listen to people who have experienced care. There are fantastic organisations out there, such as Who Cares? Scotland and Become, who champion those voices. Mentoring, the third sector, volunteering and self-education are all hugely eye-opening, but those with care experience can also bring greater meaning to the statistics by sharing their stories.
If you have experience of the care system, you have something to contribute. You can do this in any way you feel comfortable and challenge society’s view of children in care. Own your care identity: be proud of it – it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The views of more than 200 young people with experience of Scotland’s care system were presented to the Scottish First Minister, the Right Honourable Nicola Sturgeon MSP at a special event in Edinburgh.
She talked with 50 young people in person and then received boxes of postcards with the views of other young people supported by us.
The event is part of a series which will allow the First Minister to hear from 1,000 looked after young Scots. This will feed into the Scottish Government’s “root and branch” review of the country’s care system.
"We support upwards of 800 young Scots who have been through the care system and their views are crucial to this review. They are the experts on the system and have seen first-hand the parts which worked while also experiencing the parts which have let them down."
Paul Carberry, Director of Action for Children Scotland
The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Children and young people are the best advocates for change and today I have heard some powerful stories that really demonstrate strength, courage and success in the face of circumstances that no young person should have to deal with.
“We all have a role to play in supporting and listening more to our young people to ensure they get the same stability and life chances that the rest of us take for granted.”
"Every child should have the best start in life and an equal chance to succeed. Yet, through no fault of their own, that’s not the case for far too many young people in care."
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Action for Children Scotland works with more than 800 young people who have been through the care system at services including residential and short-breaks, family support services and employability support.
Paul Carberry, Director of Action for Children Scotland, added: “When the review of the care system was announced by the First Minister we welcomed it, particularly the pledge to listen to the views of care-experienced young people.
"Our young people were thrilled to meet the First Minister and play their part in this very important review. She heard about their very real experiences which are important if we are to build of a care system which will better meet their needs and allow them to reach their potential."
Paul Carberry, Director of Action for Children Scotland
FtSE Member News: House of Commons Education Committee hear evidence from TACT CEO in relation to fostering inquiry
TACT CEO Andy Elvin gave oral evidence yesterday to House of Commons Education Committee, in connection with the Committee’s inquiry into fostering in England.
TACT was invited to be a witness before the Committee following the charity’s submission of written evidence, which raised a number of issues in relation to fostering, including the systemic weaknesses in both local authority fostering teams and in present commissioning arrangements, and the need for foster carers to be recognised and respected as an authority on their child.
Andy said: “TACT was pleased to draw the Education Select Committee’s attention to our innovative partnership with Peterborough City Council which is the first time a charity will take over a local authority’s fostering and adoption service. TACT also raised the lack of respect sometimes shown to foster carers by the professional network and the fact the foster carer should be respected as the expert on their child. And we were also pleased that the committee recognised the issue of excessive profit made by commercial agencies in the fostering market. “
TACT was joined on the witness panel by representatives for the National Fostering Agency, the Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers, Kent County Council and the Children’s Services Development Group.
Jon Fayle – TACT’s Chair of Trustees, also gave evidence to the Committee, in his capacity of Vice-Chair for National Association of Independent Reviewing Officers.
You can watch Andy and other witnesses give evidence to the Education Committee here.
As a gay man, becoming a foster carer seemed impossible to me eight years ago. Despite being in a long-term relationship, there was still a sense that if you were gay, certain options weren’t open to you, particularly having a family life and raising children. This is no longer the case, and from the beginning the many social workers, teachers and healthcare professionals we’ve worked with have been positive and accepting.
When my partner and I discovered that we were eligible to apply to become foster carers, we almost couldn’t believe it. We saw an advert for LGBT foster carers and, after making our first phone call, were visited by two social workers who talked us through what would be involved and what to expect from the process. I remember feeling very nervous before they arrived but the social workers immediately made us feel at ease. They were with us for two hours and in that time they answered all our questions and made us realise that it was perfectly acceptable for two men to foster children. That reassurance meant a lot to us, and made us more confident and determined to become foster carers.
After that initial visit, we were ready to take the next steps. Family and friends were surprised at our decision, but they all supported us completely. We went on an introduction to fostering course run by our local authority that was encouraging and informative. It really opened our eyes to what fostering would be like. Although some of the sessions were tough and draining, it was great to spend time with professionals and other trainee foster carers, asking questions and getting to grips with the demands of the job. Learning from professionals has been invaluable; it gave us the tools to deal with the kinds of difficult situations we didn’t have any previous experience of.
The assessment process was very intense, but we were assigned a supervising social worker who saw us through every step of the journey. It was very involved and delved into every aspect of our life, which could feel very intrusive although we understood why it needed to be done. I never felt at any stage that questions were biased because of our sexuality, and we felt supported all the way, right up to that nerve-racking moment when we went before the panel to be approved. It was scary because all the months of hard work fell to this one yes-or-no moment, but everyone was so nice and genuine that we were actually able to relax and almost enjoy the process. It was a fantastic day and I can still remember that moment we were approved. We were on such a high and just waiting for our first placement.
We have been fostering for seven years now and looked after eight children, and we have not looked back once. Our lives have changed completely. I’m now a full-time foster parent and my partner works part-time in a nursery. Having a foster family has exceeded our expectations, and the fulfilment that we get from seeing children grow and thrive in our care is incredible. There are still tough moments, but we continue to train and learn, and take advantage of all the courses that are offered to us by our local authority.
Becoming a foster carer is a huge commitment, but it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. We still sit waiting for the phone to ring and our next adventure to begin.
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