More and more people from the LGBTQ+ community are discovering that their sexuality and gender identity is no barrier to becoming a foster carer. The increasing support from LGBTQ+ foster carers continues to make a positive difference to local children and young people, as well as bring much-needed diversity to the foster care workforce.
Greater Manchester’s fostering campaign, Fostering Unfiltered, which brings together all ten local councils, took part in the Manchester Pride Parade on Saturday 26 August 2023 to encourage more people from the LGBTQ+ community to consider fostering.
Pippa fosters for Oldham Council and she took part in the parade, she said: “Fostering is amazing and I would encourage anyone to do it. I’m proud to have walked the pride parade, promoting Fostering Unfiltered, with my wife and my adopted daughter and represent the growing number of LGBTQ+ foster carers who foster with their local council in Greater Manchester.”
Barry and Andi have been foster carers with Trafford Council for four years. They have been together for 24 years, having worked together in a children’s home. They both now work for the Probation Service.
Barry said: “As couples do, we’d talked about having children and the possibility of adoption. We went along to an open day organised by Trafford Council for people interested in fostering and we were pleasantly surprised. We half-expected to be turned away, not just because we were a same-sex couple but also because we worked full-time. But we received a warm welcome and it just moved on from there.”
The couple say they felt supported throughout the application process, which left them well prepared to begin their fostering journey. Andi says: “We both work in probation so there isn’t much that is going to surprise us. We were a bit anxious about whether some young people who came to live with us would push back because we’re a gay couple, but it has never been an issue.”
Barry and Andi continue work full time while fostering, but their hours are flexible with some work from home, which suits their fostering commitments caring for children aged from five to 18.
Stuart, a foster carer with Rochdale Borough Council, is a singer and drag artist. He was inspired to become a foster carer by a friend, who wrote a book about their time in care. “I read her book three years ago and I was so moved by her experience. I decided then that I would look into foster care when I felt I was ready.
“I have been working in clubs for years and dealing with live audiences, so I’m not easily shocked. I’ve worked with people from all walks of life. I’ve been there and done it. I think I am laid back and I know that young people need their own space and the freedom to make their own choices.”
Stuart says that he felt strongly supported by Rochdale Council throughout the application process. He said: “I always felt comfortable during the process, I never felt that I was being judged because of my sexuality or my work. What was important was making sure that I was able to provide a safe and loving home and that I had the right support in place.”
He was approved to foster just over a year ago and is looking after a 16-year-old boy through supported lodgings. Like Barry and Andi, Stuart has been able to combine being a foster carer with his work.
Michael and his husband Liam have been fostering with Rochdale Council for three years. They are looking after a brother and sister in long-term foster care and have recently welcomed two more children.
Michael said: “Liam and I have always wanted children. We did consider adoption but we felt we could make a real difference as foster carers. We love being a part of the children’s lives and watching them grow and fulfil their potential. Our home is full of life, there’s always loads going on.”
They both felt it was important to foster for the local authority, rather than an agency, to help local children maintain links with their families and other important people in their lives.
Michael said: “Two of our children lived with their Nana for seven years and she’s a big part of their lives. She lives locally so it is easy for them to get to see her. They also go to school and have friends here.”
Michael is a member of Rochdale Council’s Mockingbird Hub for foster carers and their families. The scheme provides a fostering community for carers and their children. Speaking about his Mockingbird carer role, he said: “It gives us a group of friends who understand what fostering is about. We support each other and our children, a bit like big extended families, with activities and sleepovers and so on.
“If I had any anxiety it was about how children asked to live with us might feel. When our children arrived, we encouraged them to be open and honest with their feelings about us. One of our foster children has simply said: ‘As long as you love each other, I don’t care’.”
Councillor Mark Hunter, portfolio lead for Children and Young People at Greater Manchester Combined Authority and leader of Stockport Council, said: "It is really important that people know how inclusive and welcoming fostering is. What matters for children in care is that they are welcomed into loving and stable homes where they can thrive. I’m delighted to see our LGBTQ+ foster community grow and we want to keep growing.
“Carers like Pippa, Barry, Andi, Stuart, Liam and Michael are just some of the inspirational carers for council’s across Greater Manchester and I hope they inspire more people to come forward into the rewarding role of fostering.”
For more information on fostering with your local council in Greater Manchester visit fostering-unfiltered.org
Article Published: 04/09/2023 05:59 AM