The Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Adoption and Fostering week is a national campaign run by New Family Social. Starting on 7th March, the week aims to recruit prospective foster carers from the LGBT community.
Rolfe Pearce from Staffordshire and his partner Alan Wood were presented with the Foster Carers of Distinction Award at the FosterTalk Foster Carer Awards last October. Rolfe shares his thoughts with Fosterline on being a foster carer.
Rolfe said, “The award we received confirmed that it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you can offer a space in your home to help vulnerable children. We didn’t think that a same sex couple would be able to foster but you can. We have cared for three long term placements so far and we love what we do. We hope that this award will encourage more same sex couples to come forward as foster carers. You don’t need parental experience, you just need patience, understanding and love to make room in your life to care for a young person.”
Commenting on whether he had encountered any prejudice, Rolfe responded:
“The world of fostering comes from a cross section of general society, so you will always encounter a certain amount of prejudice as you would in general society. We work hard to avoid this by ensuring we proactively engage with all stakeholders BEFORE a placement is agreed. We ensure that the child is asked if they mind being placed with a same sex couple, and would respect their choice if they decide not to come to live with us. Through asking the child we are also asking the social worker at the same time, we have never received any rebuttals from any of the children we have fostered, they have always not been bothered at all.”
He continued: “Social workers come in all shapes and sizes and all spectrums of opinion, and initially treat our want to foster with suspicion. This never really causes any problems, because we make it our job to get the social worker on side and to see that we are completely child centred in our approach and will advocate strongly to get the children in our care the very best the fostering system has to offer. So what I am saying really is that if people have been prejudiced they have been careful not to show it, this is entirely right, they are entitled to their view, but they don’t have a right to bring that to work with them.”
“On every occasion we have worked hard every time to positively engage with social workers, to empower ourselves with industry knowledge and the law, to ensure that we know as much (or sometimes) more than the social workers. We work hard to keep the lines of communication open, making sure that all stakeholders are kept fully informed about the progress of the children in our care. If there are no surprises and everyone is kept informed of what is going on and the lines of communication are firmly wide open, then everyone comes to the same conclusion – we are a safe pair of knowledgeable hands, we are child centred and proactive, capable of working most things out in a positive way and as such we avoid any negativity.”
Rolfe and Alan added: “Our advice for LGBT couples is simple, YES YOU CAN, no ifs or buts just YES YOU CAN! If you care, a child will know that, if you can be fair, a child will respond to that, if you have room in your heart and your home, it can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do……and the most challenging too.
As a gay couple we don’t try to be “Mum or Dad,” they already have one of those, we try to give the child some space to explore who they are and show them who they could be, we protect them from the harsh world of the care system, fend off the intrusion and the times when they just want to weep from so much rejection. We lift them when they progress, carry them when they are down, encourage them to behave better, take away the conflict and replace it with hope and trust, show them they are not bound by their past only their hope for their own future……it isn’t rocket science….if you care YOU CAN!
Open your heart, open your home, there are so many who just need space, time and love; you can make a difference, they are worth it, they deserve good people to help them. LGBT carers have so much to give, they understand being different in today’s society, being in care can feel the same; children in care understand prejudice in school playgrounds and online, this gives an empathy, a link that other carers may not have.
There are so many more subtle differences that make LGBT carers good carers, they tend to feel they have more to prove, so go the extra mile, work harder, take on the seemingly “hopeless cases”.
So to all the LGBT carers out there, YES YOU CAN FOSTER, and you will probably do a really good job of it. The UK need more carers, the LGBT community have more spare rooms than most so it’s time to put them to good use.”
If Rolfe and Alan have inspired you and you would like to find out more about becoming a foster carer, please call us in complete confidence on 0800 040 7675.
For more information about starting a career in fostering, please click here.