Fostering as an LGBTQ+ couple, Fostering Insights with James & Joseph
11 August 2023
11 August 2023
One question we often receive at Olive Branch is “what makes a good foster carer?” There are many ways to answer this, but none of the answers have anything to do with a person’s sexual orientation or gender. Anyone has the option to foster children, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples.
We spoke to one of our LGBTQ+ foster carer couples, James and Joseph, to find out more about their experience of therapeutic fostering with Olive Branch…
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
James: I’m James, and I’ve been with Joseph for 18 years. Before fostering, I was working in high-end luxury fashion, managing two stores. However, after my dad died during the covid pandemic and my mum became ill, I became my mum’s carer. Joseph and I have always wanted children, but we decided that there are lots of children already out there who need help. Caring for my mum inspired me to consider fostering, so we contacted Olive Branch, and I became a full-time foster carer.
Joseph: Part of our decision to foster was also influenced by the fact that my parents always fostered, so I grew up as part of a foster family. I worked in aviation for 19 years but, after being made redundant, I became a train conductor so I could spend more time with our foster children. I was at the height of my career in aviation, but we decided fostering was so rewarding that this was the direction we wanted to take our lives in.
How many children do you foster currently?
James: We currently foster two children, and this is a fairly new placement for us. Prior to that, we fostered two boys for nine months, as well as doing some respite fostering in between.
How did you find the application process?
James: It has been just over 12 months since we were approved as foster carers, and we were really happy with the application process. Every step was friendly, and we never felt pressured. Olive Branch were there to talk us through any challenges, and the assessment was interesting because it made you think about your own flaws and strengths. Olive Branch gave us lots of training and expanded our knowledge about how to deal with kids who have gone through trauma and need that extra support.
The training is amazing, in-depth, interesting, and engaging.
Can you tell us about some of the unique skills you need to become a foster carer?
Joseph: It’s important to be an empathetic person. A lot of the behaviours are quite challenging, so you have to remind yourself where those behaviours are coming from. Sometimes ordinary parenting won’t work, which is where therapeutic parenting comes in.
What does a typical day look like for you as a foster carer?
James: A structured routine is really important, and the children definitely thrive off that. It’s much more challenging without a routine, and you have to be able to adapt. Our day generally consists of normal school runs and bedtime routines. Both of our long-term placements have been in care already, so we mostly carry on with everything that is already familiar to them.
What are some challenges you may face as a new foster carer?
Joseph: Behavioural challenges. After the initial ‘honeymoon period’, you definitely start to see more challenges. You need to be prepared to adapt. Maintaining a routine can be challenging. Our parenting style progressed to therapeutic fostering mainly because of our previous placement. We learnt that routine and boundaries need to be put in place straight away, but the therapeutic style can be a little softer in approach. It’s all about tailoring that balance to the specific child.
What has been your favourite memory as a foster carer?
Joseph: The previous boy we looked after presented quite challenging behaviour. He was very guarded and rarely showed affection. On his last day with us, he left a note saying he loved us. Seeing a boundary come down is really rewarding. Knowing you’ve made a difference to their lives and seeing them happy means a lot.
What has your time been like with Olive Branch Fostering?
James: The Olive Branch team support us all along the way. We don’t feel alone, which is why we feel it’s so important to be with an agency. Our Supervising Social Worker is great, but anytime you need to speak to someone about anything, even if you just need a moan, someone at Olive Branch is always there to pick up the phone.
It’s a culture of support.
Do you have any advice for anyone considering fostering?
James: Do your homework. Fostering isn’t something that happens overnight, so try to be patient. It’s something that needs to be thought through, but the rewards are amazing. Seeing that glimmer of hope within a child is the most rewarding thing. The kids have been through trauma but want to be loved. It’s the best thing you can do.
What does the LGBTQ+ community mean to you, and how does this integrate with being a foster carer?
Joseph: The community is like a big, strong family, which is why it’s so important for us to support pride. We were a bit nervous about how the kids would react to us being a same-sex couple, but they didn’t bat an eyelid. We took them to Manchester Pride, and they loved it. We know kids come from different backgrounds and that might influence their view of things, but one of our foster children was very accepting and said “everyone has different fingerprints. Everyone is different.”
James: I hope more same-sex couples foster. I think many of us can relate to a level of hardship and sometimes bullying, so I think that experience can help you support that child with what they’re going through.
What do you do in your spare time?
Joseph: One of the boys plays football a few times a week. The dogs also get a brisk walk every day, usually with the kids. The children haven’t done certain things before, like going for walks, to the beach or the cinema, so we are giving them new experiences. I love taking the kids to the theatre. We’ve also recently got them into crocheting, which is great for mindfulness.
James: I love Lego, which is a fun activity to do with the kids. They love crafting, they love family meals and sitting at the table talking. One of our foster kids is so helpful with helping out in the house, and he loves gardening.
Any final comments?
Joseph: Be aware of the challenges. You have to be open to being rejected, and you may find that the closer the children get, the more they might push away. Sometimes the kids will try and sabotage a placement as they’re frightened they’ll be moved on. They might question how long they’re going to be with you for, but we always say “as long as you need a home, this is your home.”
James: If you have even the slightest seed of an idea that you might want to foster, then speak to Olive Branch. Have a conversation and start exploring to see if its for you. There’s lots of information out there, and Olive Branch can guide you through.
The reward is worth it, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.
Could you provide a fresh start and a safe space to call home for a vulnerable child or young person in your area? Get in touch to find out more.
Get in touch to find out more.
11 August 2023
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