Wednesday, March 14, 2018


A reader writes;

"Hi there,
I am currently in the process of applying to be a respite carer with my local authority. Am in 'stage 1' but things seem to be going well. I've been reading your blog a while and havent noticed any thoughts on LGBT foster care (unless I missed it), that is either with LGBT parents or LGBT children or both. I am a gay woman. I put that on my form, all good there. 
Of course I am hoping to get approved. I am keen to look after older (11+) children. If it ever came up in conversation with children is it wise to be honest about such things, ie if the child asked why I dont have a husband/boyfriend (I am single, btw). 
Linked to this, my understanding is that LGBT youth can make up a higher percentage of foster care children, particularly older ones, than in the general population. Do you think it is wise, or even positive, to place LGBT youth with a LGBT carer? Is it even something I could raise with my social worker as a possible positive?
Thank you."

Welcome to fostering Anon, albeit for you currently the pre-fostering early days.

The twin topics of fostering for an LGBT person, and being in fostering for an LGBT youth aren't ones I've written dedicated blogs about to date, so thank you for the nudge.

Forgive me a couple of random meanderings before I tackle your important questions;

First, I found myself wondering why LGBT has not really come onto my radar. At Blue Sky the fostering rosta is increasingly diverse, yet I only notice this when it's pointed out to me; my instinct is to see beyond the ethnicity of carers, or their age group, nationality physical abilities or sexuality. Unless people bring their own uniquenesses to my attention I make a point of not noticing.

I look for common-sense, compassion, good humour, empathy, durability and plain good-heartedness. Those qualities are present in all good fostering people, but in different combinations; some foster carers character profiles are headed by strength and reliability (I met an ex-soldier at one Blue Sky meeting who'd seen action in Afghanistan - he was a rock). Others bring more nuanced skills as their mainstays. I'm not saying tough carers can't do gentle, or that sensitive carers can't do firm, just that we are all made up differently. Each of us has a very different life story behind us, and every one of us has a life story rich in experiences that can help children in care.

It's our unique profiles that social workers look to understand, then use to the full by matching us with children who most need the particular strengths we have at the top of our list of qualities.

We had a child stay with us who had gender issues and the local authority were fantastic. They went to work to get things as right for the child as possible and I learned as I went; the child's school got an angry visit from me because some teachers persistently got the child's gender wrong; I told them my view, which is;

It's wrong to pigeon-hole a child as a boy or a girl unless you're 100% sure it's their choice. So only when you KNOW the child for sure can you risk saying "Now, then young lady", or even things like "I need a big strong boy to help me with something heavy". As a rule, if there's ANY doubt, ask the child's name, or avoid referring to gender at all. And avoid gender stereotypes.

I phoned my social worker when I got home worried I'd been a bit cross with them and she said that if being cross with people who get things like gender preference wrong is what gets the job done, then go ahead and get cross. Not long afterwards the school proudly announced plans to convert one of its washrooms to gender neutral.

But I guess what I'm saying here Anon is that I can only take an educated guess at many of the issues that are in your mind, because my personal experience is not great, although I do know for sure that there is a growing awareness of gender issues, and more and more children are challenged. I suspect you're right in thinking a high percentage come into care. I also suspect that there's some important work to be done in this field.

And that you are in a better position than many to get that work done.

To take your questions one by one;

You mention that you hope to look after children aged 11+, and so did we, funnily enough. I expect that at first your preference will be respected. But as you develop your fostering and build confidence through competence, they might ask you to widen your brief. I always say fostering is like Forest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. But it's always your choice, you can say yes or no to any placement offered.

As far as explaining your situation to a foster child, Anon I imagine you have found yourself discussing your life choices with a variety of folk already and have developed a great range of skills, especially in assessing what to say and how to say it according to who the other person is. Age-appropriateness will probably be a key thing to think about. I would imagine that you are well equipped to get it right with foster children, but it's something to discuss with your social worker to get some broad guidelines in place, and keep them informed as you go along. 

It's how things work in fostering for all of us; your social worker is your best friend and ally.

Correct me if I'm wrong Anon, but I have a good feeling that you harbour the hope that your personal circumstances might help you to be of the greatest help to young persons who are seeing the world as you saw it when you were their age. Question asked, question answered Anon; you have expertise that many of us foster carers lack. Again though, your social worker will guide you, they will help in the crucial matter of deciding if a young person is right to come to you. If you get the offer and the child arrives you begin the process of helping the child in any way they need, wherever you can provide help.

I would advise you to raise this aspect of the job with your social worker straight away, yes; to put your mind at rest. It might be that the local authority you are with has existing guidelines, or is building their experiences, or has had previous cases which they can use not only to form a policy relating to your fostering, but to help guide you in doing something not many foster carers are equipped for, and is as sensitive as it is important.

Good luck Anon.

Stay in touch.


  1. Thanks for the reply to my questions. Some great points there and I really appreciate it.

    You know I read a quote (Guardian I think) that said if just 1pc of all LGBT adults fostered, then there would be no national shortage.

    Next time my social worker comes for a visit, I will indeed raise any concerns. Thanks for the pointers.

    I will keep in touch for sure.

  2. Thank you for your questions and kind comment.
    And thank you for wanting to foster.

    1. I started my training this week, and the trainers actually brought this issue up themselves - if there is a LGBT child they try to foster with a LGBT carer to help the child feel more secure in that area. I'm sure every carer would be great with lgbt issues, however I guess if there is more of a match, the better. One of the trainers was a gay man and he talked about his experiences of helping a foster boy who was being bullied at school for being gay. Again I'm sure every carer would advocate for any bullied child but it's just another plus point.... if I get approved for sure will ensure my social worker knows I'd be up for such a placement....

    2. Sounds like you're well on track Anon, and lining yourself up to make a difference, which is what fostering is all about.
      It's pleasing to hear that your training has a wide and inclusive orbit; good for everyone, and great for confidence-building and your personal sense of your potential.
      There's any number of frightened lonely children out there who don't know it yet, but in you they have someone who can be the best foster parent they could have.

  3. Hi Anon,
    I am LGBT foster carer. If you interested this is mu blog from the time of our approval process:
    Good Luck!