LGBT+ and thinking of fostering?

Your gender identity, sexual orientation and relationship status do not matter to us if you’re thinking of fostering.

We are a member of New Family Social, a charity that supports the LGBT+ community to foster and adopt. In New Family Social’s 2011 survey, 76 per cent of social workers thought LGBT people’s openness to difference and ability to empathise with fostered children was a significant strength. Their CEO explained:

‘Most of us who grew up gay can remember a time we felt like we didn’t belong, like we were different to everyone else. We had to figure out who we are and how we fit into the world. Lots of LGBT people have faced rejection from their family and have found their closest, most enduring relationships with a non-biological family. It’s a journey that many fostered children will go on too; feelings of isolation, being rejected and being different.’

One of our own young people in Reading commented:

‘I would understand if someone wanted a foster carer who was LGBT so that they would know that they would be in a safe and open environment to be who they are, and not have to hide a part of them.’

One of our young people is living with a same-sex couple:

‘Our foster child says he loves living with us and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, he likes having an open mind and not being judgmental. He says he has learnt that with positive minds and hard work anyone can achieve a good life.’

New Family Social also has a list of studies and reports into the outcomes of children who have been brought up by LGBT+ carers.

Our young people in care may also be exploring their identities so all foster carers, not just those who are LGBT+ themselves, need to be aware. The role of a foster carer is to support a child through their youth and that means supporting them through this as well. We asked one of our young people in care what their foster carer could do to support them:

‘We may be foster children but we are just like other children, and like any normal child we may discover our identity whether it be a sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a part of who we are, that can affect our lives and relationships. So, to be able to share that with our foster carers is something that can strengthen those bonds.

For someone who is finding their sexual orientation, the most obvious show of support would be to accept them for their romantic choices but things like not making a big deal out of it.

Using preferred names and pronouns is an obvious sign of support for someone who wishes to change their gender identity, then there are less obvious things like maybe helping them change their wardrobe or picking out a new name.’

Here are some of other things that our foster carers do to help (shared by The Fostering Network).

  • Don’t assume every young person in care is heterosexual or straight
  • Do challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobic language
  • Don’t impose gender stereotypes on young people
  • Do encourage young people to follow their interests
  • Don’t push young people to discuss LGBT issues if they don’t want to and don’t pressure them into coming out
  • Do make information easily available to young people
  • Don’t feel like you are expected to have all the answers
  • Do make use of websites and resources
  • Do get training in LGBT+ inclusion
  • Do be prepared to learn a new language when it comes to understanding and discussing issues of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Create an atmosphere of acceptance and celebration
  • Use inclusive language
  • Respect the pronouns of a young person
  • Be strong allies

At Brighter Futures for Children IFA, we are proud to be an inclusive independent fostering agency, providing a brighter future for the children and young people in Reading. If you would like to find out more about becoming a foster carer with us, please enquire here.