Perceptions, preconceptions, and the reality of fostering in the LGBT community

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Tor Docherty, the chief executive of New Family Social, has written a blog about perceived barriers, and the reality of becoming a foster carer, for the LGBT community.

A third of LGBT people think they’ll face barriers to becoming a foster carer, despite some social workers saying LGBT people have particular strengths that can make us great foster carers.

I think that whatever the policy might be in any borough or organisation, the reality is that LGBT foster carers will be dealing with potential homophobia from social workers and birth parents. It is often unspoken and therefore harder to challenge”. Bisexual woman considering fostering in London.

Tor Docherty's connection to fostering​So are the barriers real or perceived? Fostering agencies are increasingly keen to recruit LGBT carers with many joining New Family Social specifically hoping to attract LGBT fosterers. 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.

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. It’s clear that LGBT people have a lot to offer but some fostering agencies haven’t recognised that yet. A gay foster carer in East Anglia said,

There are some agencies which would be less likely to consider an LGBT couple, but there are plenty that will.

So how do you find a good agency? As always, shop around. The Fostering Network has a national list of agencies on its website and you can check if they’re members of New Family Social (and therefore actively engaging with LGBT people) by looking at our agency finder on our website. Call the agencies and ask how many LGBT carers they have and whether they actively recruit LGBT people. Ask if their social workers and panels have had any LGBT awareness training.

Talk to other LGBT foster carers. Are they happy with their agency? Have they encountered any problems? You can find other LGBT foster carers through New Family Social.

Lots of fostering agencies are actively seeking LGBT foster carers saying “We want LGBT people to join us as foster carers. We want to get the message out that they’re really welcome here.

If you’re thinking of fostering, take the first step today. There are so many children who need to be cared for by people who “get it”. I’ll give the last words to an experienced foster carer…

The best things about being a foster carer are laughing, seeing the difference three months on, six months on, a year on etc. Teaching an illiterate nine year old to read and within 10 months her choosing to bring a book to a restaurant and reading quietly for fun. My proudest ever achievement!” Lesbian foster carer, East Midlands.

You can find out more about New Family Social, download resources, and more, on their website.