This week is LGBT Fostering and Adoption week. As many of you know, and if you have read my story on our website, one of my mums is a foster carer, who has recently adopted my little sister.
However, I did not grow up with foster children in my home. For a while it was my two mum’s, my sister, my brother and me. I had the most stable and loving upbringing that any child could ask for. The house was always full of laughter and we were forever putting on endless plays for my parents to fall asleep to. We had a dog, a lovely garden and friends were welcome round our house any time of the day. We went on holiday every year to our house in Denmark (and still do now) in the safe knowledge that we were going somewhere familiar and felt like home.
When my mum’s separated, life continued, the laughter didn’t stop, but it was just shared between two homes. I am very fortunate that both my parents (however hard it was for them in the early years) put on a united front for us as a family. I think that because of this they have stayed very close friends. We still have Sunday dinners where there is far too much noise at the table, we sometimes holiday together and always have Christmas as one big family. The only thing that has changed is that there are some new additions to our families dynamic.
When my mum was about to get her first foster placement, she was so anxious and nervous. I remember sitting with her and running through our worries out loud together. What would they be like? Would they like us? Was their behaviour going to be awful? Was it going to be like the horror stories that you hear? I think we were waiting on the doorstep for our new little borrowed one to arrive, when we saw the car pull up. Out climbed this tiny five year old with hair down to her waist. She was very shy, polite and was probably as anxious as we all were.
All of the worries and the worst-case scenarios melted away in the coming weeks. We all seemed to find a new rhythm as we adjusted to this new little person that had come to live with us. She enjoyed playing in the garden and going ice-skating. We began a tradition of having pain au chocolate croissants on a Saturday morning. She was such a joy to look after, and you could see her personality growing in the safe environment that my mum provided for her.
My mum has since gone on to have about 10 short-term foster care placements with young children looking for love and stability. Many kids that with a good routine, structure and cuddles, blossomed into charismatic little people they had never got a chance to be. Of course not all of them have been so smooth and delightful. She has had to look after children with more challenging needs. Some placements with children that have been so badly neglected that their behaviour is full of arguments and tantrums that seem to go on for months.
In the middle of it all you have to keep thinking to your self - I’ve had the best possible upbringing, so why wouldn’t I want a child to experience that? After a few months the tantrums subside, once you are able to show them that they are in a safe place. They begin to trust you and open up about their feelings, and the hard work that you put in seems to take effect.
The bad behaviour does not outweigh the positives you take away from being a foster carer, and I’m sure my mum would agree with that. I think that we are so fortunate with the families that we are born into, that we sometimes don’t stop to think about the impact that you could have on a child’s life, whose family is not so brilliant. We are not always so lucky and helping a child in care could be the most challenging and rewarding thing that you ever do. I think that is it really important to raise awareness to the amount of children in our care system that still need a home. If you are gay man, straight or lesbian, a single carer or otherwise, you can make a difference to someone.
Think about it today. You could change somebody’s life.