As a fostering charity, TACT are committed to attracting diverse foster carers from lots of different backgrounds, groups and communities. Despite this, statistics show that 8 in 10 LGBTIQA+ people actually anticipate barriers to fostering because of their sexual orientation.
As of 31st March 2022, approximately 69,963 children were living with foster families in the UK. The total number of children in care is closer to 93,874. In a world where so many new fostering families are needed each year, how can we attract more LGBTIQA+ people to fostering?
The first step would be to dispel the myths that are still connected with LGBTQ+ fostering. Thankfully, organisations such as New Family Social have been established purely to attract and support more LGBTQ+ foster carers and adopters. But there is clearly still more to be done to fully remove perceived barriers to fostering.
Removing barriers to fostering
We spoke to some of our existing foster carers, who told us that there was an initial hesitancy about making a fostering application due to experiences growing up, and how socially acceptable being LGBTIQA+ was at a certain point in their lives. While acknowledging that attitudes had changed over the years, they were unsure as to how much this change would now pave the way for them to become foster carers.
Martin and James have been TACT foster carers since 2018. They had reservations about applying to foster due to their sexuality.
“James and I did have some anxieties over whether being a LGBTIQA+ couple would be a barrier to us fostering. However, our fears were soon allayed by speaking to TACT. They assured us that being a LGBTIQA+ couple would never be a barrier or affect our ability to foster – as long as we could offer the necessary love and support to a child, TACT were happy for us to go ahead.”
Since joining TACT, James & Martin have cared for three young people, two of which have been long term placements.
Gary and Colin, TACT foster carers since 2007, highlighted clear advantages for children being looked after by a same-sex couple:
“I feel there are benefits to being a same sex fostering couple, something TACT has always recognised. As a gay man you are part of a minority group and can sometimes feel that you are not part of mainstream society. Many children in care can feel similar, in that they are likely to be different from their friends and peers as they do not live with their family members. This means that we have a lot of empathy with them and understand how they might be feeling.”
TACT carers Rob and Bob got married in 2017. They were providing care for a sibling group of three young people at the time – so they asked them if they wanted to be involved in the wedding. They all accepted the offer, with the two brothers becoming their ‘best men’ and their sister a bridesmaid.
TACT’s LGBTIQA+ support groups
As a fostering charity, TACT’s aim has always been to attract foster carers from diverse backgrounds, cultures and communities. It is for this reason that the organisation set up a dedicated support group for LGBTIQA+ foster carers. The group, which takes place every 6-8 weeks, covers ways of supporting carers of LGBTIQA+ children through sharing reference materials. The group is also accessible to other carers for them to ask questions anonymously, or with the knowledge that there will be no judgement.
The support group is also keen to demonstrate positive visibility within communities across the UK – for example, attendance at LGBTIQA+ themed events such as Pride festivals.
Natalie, the group’s Chair and foster carer, had this to say about foster carers identifying as LGBTIQA+:
“You are welcome to be yourself and can be assured that you will be treated with dignity and acceptance from the start of your journey. Children are at the heart of what TACT does and this starts with giving all foster carers the foundations they need to build upon – and continues throughout. TACT has recently supported the introduction of the PRIDE Network which is open to all and run by openly out carers and members of staff and their allies.”
Encouraging more LGBTIQA+ foster carers
Natalie is keen to encourage more LGBTIQA+ people to foster, using either TACT’s ‘Recommend a Friend’ scheme, or simply via outward communications that underline and promote inclusivity and diversity. But more needs to be done nationally by multiple organisations in order to dispel myths and tackle outdated perceptions.
All foster carers are adaptable and flexible, but it goes without saying that with more LGBTQ+ people coming forward to foster, more LGBTIQA+ children in care will feel that they have an ally and an advocate who can completely identify with them.
If you identify as LGBTIQA+ and are interested in fostering, you can make a no-obligation enquiry by completing our form, or you can call us on 0330 123 2250.