Anne-Marie is a foster carer. She and her partner Clair have been fostering children with National Fostering Group for nine years.
Here, Anne-Marie explains how she feels about fostering after almost a decade in the role, including some of the challenges and opportunities around being an LGBT+ foster carer.
Our journey, like so many other foster carers, is unique and original to the person or couple.
The process of a foster carer can be to some quite therapeutic, talking as a couple, reflecting on your past, present and future plans; it is actually quite nice to have that space where it’s about you.
The only part of the process we found we did challenge, was the description of our rescue dog (yes, we were over-protective).
However, the profile came across a bit scary to a potential reader we thought. The supervising social worker writer of our first report admitted they were scared of dogs. Our dog barking and greeting them had reflected in them being scared and being described in the report as this.
I guess what this showed us, was no matter what we have a voice, we have opinions and we can challenge appropriately, and yes, the report was changed to reflect this, and Sydney Sausage, the African Bitzer, was described as a playful happy dog!
Nine years later, when working with many professionals and children, yes we still challenge, have opinions and a voice.
I’m pleased to say we have the constant training, skilled supervision support and working with others to enable us to use these skills to our best capability as foster parents.
As a same sex couple yes we have experienced, and the reality is we will continue to face and deal with, homophobia.
The majority of this is coming from the unknown. They have previously been taught language and statements, that when a young person says it to you, is mimicking what they have heard in their past. In fact, a lot of the time we have had racist, sexist discriminative comments come from our young people.
We both take our role as a privilege, where we can educate, advocate and empower and inform a young person to have truthful factual information to make their own choices and views and also that they have a voice.
We have found that, no matter what the age, these resilient children that have come into our care are amazing debaters and sponges to learn about life. They have previously been faced discrimination and will sometimes face this again being in the care system.
The amazing conversations we have had in Pizza Express or Nando’s when we least expect it – a question will be thrown at you to answer immediately and the smile it gives you that a young person is now asking these questions, challenging past conceptions and views, and growing in self-esteem and confidence.
Foster parents when you see the adverts you usually see happy smiling faces of the joy it brings. The reality is yes we smile a lot (sometimes through gritted teeth), laugh a lot together (sometimes with a few tears) and most importantly have lots of love and fun has a family.
This is a very challenging profession which, through constant good training and skilled supervising social workers, enables you to help a young person through their life journey, and for you to be part of a team that can bring change to so many – is it rewarding yes but most importantly you can assist and bring change to a young person’s life and their future.
If Anne-Marie’s story has inspired you to think about becoming a foster carer, get in touch with your local foster agency team for more information or to talk through any questions you might have.