At Kindercare Northern Ireland we often notice that many people wrongly assume that their sexuality will discount them from becoming an approved foster carer. In fact, it is illegal to discriminate against potential foster carers because of their sexual orientation.
It seems hard to imagine that it has only been a decade since discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples and individuals preventing them from fostering was made unlawful.
In the past decade, the contribution that LGBT carers have made to the lives of thousands of children across the UK has been immense.
In 2006 the law changed, allowing both foster or adoptive carers in an LGBT couple to appear as legal guardians on the adoption or fostering paperwork.
This change has resulted in a steady increase in LGBT foster carers; with both parents’ rights acknowledged by law, fostering has become far more viable and attractive to couples.
However, as we celebrate LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, Kindercare Northern Ireland wants to reach out to couples who have considered fostering and who may be able to offer a home to a vulnerable child or teenager.
Normally, couples and individuals considering foster care for the first time have a range of questions about the kinds of qualities that are required in order to foster.
The ‘fostering mindset’ is the most important attribute that any prospective carer needs; empathy, patience, the ability to nurture and to support are all vital components of this outlook.
When children and young people enter foster care, they are vulnerable and can display challenging behaviour.
A foster carer needs to be able to offer stability and security, as they will be caring for children who’s lives have become chaotic and bewildering.
LGBT foster carers who can offer stability to young people who have experienced abandonment by other adults in their lives can make great contributions to their well being.
In a recent article in the Guardian newspaper about LGBT fostering and adoption, it was revealed that in the past decade LGBT foster carers had often been more willing to care for children with behavioural problems or other special needs.
Whilst prejudice against non heterosexual carers has declined and society has become more educated and open minded, Kindercare Northern Ireland still find that recruiting LGBT carers is still a challenge.
Many LGBT people are unaware that they have a legal right be considered as a candidate to foster.
In 2013 Action for Children revealed that just under a third of all LGBT people in the UK believed that they were barred from fostering or adoption on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity.
The social workers interviewed tended to view them as more accepting, tolerant and able to see the positives in young people.
They also believed that they would be better able to support a child who felt ‘different’ (a feeling nearly every foster child experiences), with compassion and empathy.