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Guest Blog: Reflections on Fostering and Adoption by Stu Oakley

The most important and stand out memory of my life involves knocking on a foster carers door. My husband, John and I were about to meet our children for the first time. We had spent a year bogged down in paperwork, we had been overwhelmed with training and had pretty much only conversed with semi-robotic professionals. So when that door opened and we saw our children for the very first time all the nerves, anxieties and stresses melted away as the foster carer beamed at us and stuck out his hand. He offered the most human interaction we had experienced so far and at exactly the right time. We spent over a week in their home as nervous and unsure new parents faced with the prospect of two new children to take care of.

Fast forward two years and, as the co-host of LGBTQ+ parenting podcast Some Families, I get the opportunity to speak to people from across the queer parenting landscape. A few weeks ago my co-host, Lotte Jeffs, and I got the opportunity to speak to Annabelle Avis about her experience as an LGBTQ+ foster carer.

Annabelle and her wife Sally decided they wanted to foster after working at a residential school and feeling that they had more they could offer young people. They currently have three children in their care and from the brief time I had with Annabelle I can tell just how much she loves it and how rewarding it is for her.

“Foster carers help rebuild families, they help build new families and, in some circumstances, become a new family themselves.”

Difference between adoption and fostering 

Before we moved forward with adoption my husband and I did discuss fostering. I would imagine this is a conversation that happens in many homes that are looking at alternative ways to start their family. Ultimately, we did not move any further beyond the thoughts of fostering. At the time I personally felt I needed to develop my own parenting skills before being put into a situation to care for children who were suffering such trauma. What I was naive to at that time was that with adoption we were in fact opening our arms to children going through the same experiences. When starting out Annabelle saw what I did not see, the incredible and in-depth training you do receive as foster parents, the support networks and the reward of being able to give children a safe, happy and comforting place to live. In this way, adoption and fostering are very much alike, especially with foster carers like Annabelle who go on to provide a long-term commitment to the children in their homes. But dare I say that foster carers are much more self-less. Unlike adoption, they don’t venture into fostering thinking about their own aspirations to become a family unit. They help rebuild families, they help build new families and in some circumstances become a new family themselves.

Fostering as a LGBTQ+ parent 

I do not regret not fostering as my children are now my life and I cannot imagine a world without our family being how it is, but I’ve seen first-hand what the power of fostering can do for children and I very much hope that fostering features in our future somehow, especially as an LGBTQ+ person. Like many aspects of queer parenting it seems that being LGBTQ+ brings a certain nuance to fostering and can provide a different viewpoint to a young person in need. There is a particular rise in young LGBTQ+ teens who are not meeting safeguarding needs due to issues around homophobia in the home and who are finding themselves in need of foster care and I hope that once our children are truly confident and comfortable with our family unit we can start helping particularly in this area. It was so affirming to hear Annabelle talk of the support network of carers she has within her area. Not only to lean on to help, share and pass around essential items and equipment when needed, but also for guidance, with Annabelle and Sally having been called on to offer advice for other foster carers with LGBTQ+ children in the areas. Community is so important to carers, these children and to LGBTQ+ people everywhere and it is a further thing we all share in common.

Advice for potential foster carers

I asked Annabelle if she had any advice for adoptive parents going into a foster carer’s home for the first time during introductions. She told us that it is important to remember that they are as nervous as you are. Speaking to Annabelle helped me see things from the other side and now back when I remember my children’s foster carer shaking my hand at that door I can imagine the nerves he too was feeling as he effectively welcomed my husband and me in to take up residency for the next ten days. Foster carers are incredibly special people, I’m delighted to have them in my world and I’m so glad we got to speak to Annabelle for a very special episode of Some Families.

Have a read of our previous blog post about the Some Families podcast!

Annabelle’s episode of Some Families is available to stream via all podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Some Families is a podcast dedicated to queer parenting and was the first of its kind in the UK. Topics to date have included adoption, surrogacy, IUI and IVF, transitioning gender as a parent, growing up with LGBTQ+ parents, racial donor restrictions, co-parenting, fostering, raising disabled children and general day to day parenting highs and lows – all through a queer parenting lens. 

Interested in becoming a foster carer? Visit our fostering page for more information! 

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