Clinton Kirkpatrick, 37, who is an artist and a community artist, began his fostering journey in May 2021 and has been looking after his young person for the last seven months.
Clinton said: “I feel very privileged to be in this position. Even just a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible. But I am delighted that I can call myself a foster parent, and delighted that I can look after someone else.
“There is a need for young people to be looked after and supported, so a fostering myth that should be busted wide open is that any one can do it. If you are single, gay, or anything. Lots of people are equipped to do it.”
Clinton continued: “As a gay man, a single man, and a single, male, gay foster parent, I am dealing with this legacy of all these tropes of life, but fortunately there is a rise in conversation around this now.”
Lockdown was the catalyst that Clinton needed to take the plunge into foster care. Clinton said: “I realised that I wanted to introduce family to my life, but am acutely aware that I am not getting any younger, so I needed to look for other ways to do it.
“A friend of mine suggested fostering, I enquired with Foster Care Associates (FCA), and five months later I had my first foster child.”
He continued: “My first question to FCA was can a single, gay, man be a foster parent? They said yes, and here I am! If you are interested, or even if you think you might be, just take the step into this realm unafraid!”
Clinton’s work as an artist meant that he was already heavily involved in the Belfast community. He had worked with schools, adult groups and mental health support groups.
“I love being an artist, teaching people, inspiring them, sharing skills and confidence with people. It’s partly the reason I thought fostering would be a good fit for me” said Clinton.
Clinton’s foster child is 13, and Clinton describes their dynamic as ‘funny and humorous’ and said that they get on very well together.
Clinton said: “Foster care is not without its challenges, but there are so many little moments that make it amazing. Watching my young person grow, make their own decisions, have new life experiences! I took him to the Grand Opera House in Belfast and it was amazing to introduce him to something new like the theatre.”
Clinton is enjoying his role as a foster parent, and hopes to provide long-term foster care for his foster child, but said that there needs to be more information available for prospective foster parents.
If you’re yet to contact an agency for more information, it can be difficult to find out what you need to know. So to help prospective foster parents, Clinton has decided to write a book about his fostering experience.
In its very early stages, the book will aim to tackle the big questions around fostering head on, with a first hand account from Clinton.
He said: “The further into my foster journey I got, the more I noticed that single, gay foster parents were non-existent!
“I started to document what I was going through through experiences, words and art, and then I thought ‘I’m going to write a book!’
“Ultimately, it’s about encouraging other people to become foster parents. I love that I do this, and that I was able to make the choice to do this, so the bottom line is I hope that more people come forward to foster children throughout Northern Ireland.”
“It is amazing to see what wonderful children they have grown to become.”
March 15 2022
Christie, a Derbyshire local, has been fostering for the past three years and sat down to share her experience and advice for future foster parents.
“It’s not all about making them happy and giving them nice things, it’s about being a comforting presence and being kind. Sometimes they just need to know you are there.”
April 2 2022
Single foster parent, Marlene, based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, has worked with children with autism, shares her incredible fostering journey so far.