Monday, November 12, 2018


One of the challenges for Foster Carers is when there's not much in our own personal experiences that are of much use in our fostering of today's children.

I've met a few carers who themselves had been fostered, that's a start.

But the world just keeps changing so fast, so very fast, that the things that my generation of kids had to worry about at home and at school and outside the chip shop (you know, all those places we used to hang out at), well those things don't seem to be so big with kids any more.

Especially not with children who have been taken from a home where they were considered at risk.

The big new thing at the moment wasn't even a thing at all in my day; gender.

When I say 'new', I'm not saying that gender issues weren't a problem 20 or 30 years ago; it's clear that a great many young people have always, down the years, faced agonising fears and uncertainties, but they had to face them alone. And deal with them under the threat that if their personal problems became common knowledge they might be subjected to ostracism at best, bullying and maybe violence at worst.

Very little of what we now know and respect in this day and age about gender was barely suspected a generation ago.

What I'm saying is this; as a Foster Carer, if and when I have to support a foster child who presents as being other than what is now called binary, I can't draw on any personal experience from my own childhood.  Nobody in my schooldays was perceived as being anything other than what people (sadly) called 'normal'. Mind, there was pernicious rumour-mongering from the sort of youths you'd expect aimed a few vulnerable pupils and even certain teachers, nasty.

Today it's a totally different outlook.

One of the foster mums at our most recent support meeting is looking after a child who came to her as a male but has announced that he wishes to identify as female. Aged 15.

She's MTF. Male to female.

We (the other Foster Carers and the Blue Sky Social Workers at the meeting) had a fascinating and revealing time discussing and learning about the placement.

The young person had given enormous thought over a great deal of time to her decision. That's the first thing, from the moment the person's decision is delivered and accepted as their decision it's incumbent on those who accept their decision to remember that it's HER and not HIS decision any longer.

Which takes some getting used to. The mum said that if and when she gets it wrong the child accepts it if the mum says a quick cheerful "Oops, sorry".

One thing that amazed the foster mum was the amount and quality of support available. The school got it in one - it turned out they already had another pupil in the same boat and a couple of as yet undecided. They've allocated a toilet as gender neutral, where they can change for PE and games. The school offers counselling. The child's local authority social worker came up with a list of groups and clubs for young people with similar profiles. They are all extremely well run by knowledgable professionals. Her Blue Sky SW brought books and video links on the subject and arranged for her and her partner to attend a series of training sessions run for parents with children who also have gender issues.

The child's friendship groups have been massively supportive, and all the other pupils at her school respect her courage and conviction, apparently it would be uncool not to!

The other thing to pass on is this; the child's foster mum says that she has never seen the child so happy, so contented, so footsure and fulfilled as she was from the very day she presented.

As ever, thanks for reading, and happy fostering!


  1. This post has totally warmed my lil ole heart. Thanks for this. :). What a lovely surprise.
    Slight confession time however. When I was applying to be a carer, I put on my form I was a gay woman. That was the tick box option that most closely represented me, however about a month before panel, after I'd gotten to know my SW a bit more, I told her that i'm socially out. Well out at work and with my friends (though not my family). Out, in that I'm ftm. (I know I failed to mention that here too!) Now she had zero issue with this, and asked what exactly I wanted to be on my fostering assessment. I asked her to leave everything as gay woman, and if I got approved we could then discuss what it meant. I wasnt 'hiding things' as such, but I was a little worried about panel.

    So after approval, when the matching started and I have to interact with social services I was asked how I want to be referred to in emails, on forms, and when introduced to children. Social services noted that in terms of matching, because I still look more female than male, and because some children will have issues with women due to past harm, my forms have to say female. I'm cool with that. I understand.
    However to keep things simple in emails and forms for me, I'm not referred to as she, but just my name.
    I've been told with older kids before they come to stay will be told about me, just in case they take issue; to protect my safety. My SW reckons if they werent told, all older kids would guess anyway. So the 16yo lad I'm having regularly doesn't give a monkeys. I knew that before he walked in my door, because my SW had 'had the chat' on my behalf. It's odd having your ears burning about something so sensitive and important, but equally warming to know you can be you in your own home; you dont have to closet yourself. It's even more warming given this lad is a tough cookie. I think perhaps adults can have more sensitivity around LGBT issues than children...
    I think my social services have been as helpful as they can, but its slightly new ground. After all on their application form was no box for transgender etc. I know they've had transgender kids in their care, but I could well be the first carer to be trans. At least I get that impression.
    I know that on my matching it says something like 'LGBT positive/ good with LGBT issues'. So maybe I'll get a gay or trans kid in the future. We shall see!
    Thanks for sharing the above. It's good to learn from each other, especially when on new ground.

  2. PS I recommend two books on this area.
    One for teens themselves. Trans Teen Survival Guide by Owl and Fox Fisher
    One for carers to help empathise with LGBT kids, though it is American and deals more with kids who've been rejected by their parents due to being LGBT (certainly my LA has kids in care because of family rejection, mind). Kicked Out by Sassafras Lowery.

    1. Hey Dana, reading your news with huge interest; forgive me not responding fully at the mo, back to the wall with amazing fostering stuff.

    2. No worries in the slightest. It's all go with me too. I've just been arranging intro meetings with my SW to meet foster parents who've requested respite for 'tricky' children and therefore before agreeing I have to have all the info I need and be confident I can look after said children (as opposed to 'easier' children where I've just had referral forms and a telephone conversation). Have a few lined up for foster parents who need a break about every 8-12 weeks or so for children with ADHD. Asperger's and autism.
      Kinda as part of this, and because I love toys, am exploring 'Lego therapy'. Either attending events with a kid, or hosting an event at mine with my kid taking part too. We shall investigate further.

  3. My YP was talking about just this issue this week. They believe gender and sexuality are shifting in a snowball kind of effect. As in the more open people are, and more visible, the more other people are willing to open up, and again the positive cycle continues.
    My YP isn't gay themselves (I dont think) but like with most kids, this isnt a taboo subject area like it might've been 20yrs+ ago. Its as exciting as talking about your shoe size. It's just a part of peoples' identites and lives.