A fostering agency wants more gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender single people and couples to consider becoming foster carers in Derry.
Foster Care Associates (FCA) is making the call ahead of LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, which runs from March 6 to 12.
It has definitely been a life changing experience for myself and David.Andrew from Derry
The FCA say the call reinforces the positive contribution LGBT foster carers make helping children and young people.
Hoping to encourage others, Andrew (31) and David (40) from Derry have been foster carers with FCA for one year.
Their eventual decision to become foster carers was easy for the couple who had often talked about wanting children in their lives during the nine years they’ve been together.
As a same sex couple Andrew talks openly and positively about their fostering journey so far, and their great support network who have encouraged them every step of the way.
Andrew said: “From the outset we talked to our close friends and families about becoming foster carers and they were overwhelming with support and encouragement. They’ve always said that we had a lot of love to give young people and that they would be there to help and guide us if we ever needed it. The majority of our family and friends all have little ones of their own, and they really understood our reasoning for becoming carers, and they helped tremendously during our assessment.
“We have been lucky to always have a great support network around us, and as a same sex couple that really means a lot.”
When asked about the reactions of the young people they look after when they find out that Andrew and David are in a relationship, Andrew said that they have been largely unfazed.
He said: “The young people we’ve welcomed into our home so far have been absolutely great with us being a same sex couple, it really feels like they treat us no different to anyone else. We always do our best to make them feel at ease, welcomed, and to feel that our home is their home.
“We’re delighted to say that we have never received any objections from parents of children that David and I have been welcomed into our home, and they are always made aware of our relationship so that we are never placed in a difficult situation. We have however received objections from parents of possible placements, but this doesn’t bother us as we know that unfortunately people still judge us a same sex couple without really knowing us, and there is sometimes very little that we can do.
“When it comes to support from FCA, they are absolutely amazing and their advice is completely invaluable. They provide ongoing training, support groups, and regular meetings with our social worker. During times that a young person is in our home, we receive regular calls and texts to make sure that we’re all doing okay. We have such a great relationship with everyone in the FCA, whether it be the staff in the office, our social workers or other FCA fosters carers who have been great in offering their own help and advice.”
Andrew sums up his and David’s fostering journey to date, and encourages others in the LGBT community to consider enquiring about becoming a foster carer. He said: “When we tell people that we are foster carers, people always admire us, what we do and what we can offer, sometimes they can be emotional knowing that we are doing something so positive. People of course always say that it must be hard to see young people move on, and whilst it can be at times, we see it more in that we have shown them what a loving and stable home can be.
“Fostering has definitely changed our lifestyle which we feel is for the better, and it is so rewarding, our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner.
“It has been fantastic to be able to provide children with the opportunity to do things that they have never done before, things that we take for granted. It has definitely been a life changing experience for myself and David.”
FCA say approximately 5% of the group’s 1580 carers are LGBT, a percentage that the fostering agency aims to increase.
Ben McQuillan, LGBT diversity champion at FCA, said: “Our underlying message is that fostering is open to everyone, and it’s up to FCA to provide a safe and welcoming community to support and develop our carers.”
Foster carers with FCA receive frequent visits and contact from a dedicated and qualified social worker.
Support is also provided through an education officer, support workers and therapist to help carers meet the needs of child or young person. Ongoing training, a financial allowance, access to carer support groups and organised family activities are all contributing factors as to why FCA placements are 22% more stable than the national average.
For information on becoming a foster carer with FCA, or to find out about recruitment events, call 0800 022 4330 or visit www.thefca.co.uk
For information about LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week visit http://www.lgbtadoptfosterweek.org.uk/