A Northern Ireland based couple are sharing their story to encourage more members of the LGBTQIA+ community to consider becoming a foster parent.
According to the New Family Social, same-sex couples now account for 1 in 7 adoptions in England, however, there is unfortunately still a lingering expectation of discrimination among the LGBTQIA+ community when it comes to fostering. YouGov has shown that 8 in 10 lesbian, gay and bisexual people expect to encounter barriers to become foster carers because of their sexual orientation.
One couple who are breaking down the barriers surrounding LGBTQIA+ fostering is Paul, 59, and Riccardo, 43, who began their fostering journey in 2018.
The couple met just over twenty-three years ago when Paul went to work in Namibia in community development developing services for people affected by HIV, with a focus on vulnerable children and orphans. Riccardo is a graphic designer and they have been very fortunate to have lived and worked in Southern Africa, India, London and now have settled in Northern Ireland.
Paul explains; “From the very early stages of our relationship we always talked about having children but given how we continually moved and the pressures of our jobs, we felt it would be unfair on a child or children not to give them all our focus and stability.
“When we moved to Northern Ireland, we knew this was going to be our home and somewhere we would put down some firm roots. Given our ages, we felt fostering would be the best avenue to go down rather than adoption.”
Paul and Riccardo did further research online, where they found FCA which really appealed to the couple, so they made the initial call.
He continues; “All of our friends and family have always known about our wish to have children and always told us what great parents we would make. And from time to time, they gave us the responsibility of looking after their children. When we told them that we had made the decision to foster, they were all very supportive. A number of our friends were our referees and only from reading what they wrote did we find out how they have considered us to care for their children should something happen to them.”
Riccardo explains that FCA have made their fostering journey very special; “Right from the start, it has felt like we've had this big warm blanket around us. There is always someone to answer all our questions and queries and you’re always made to feel like you’re part of one big family. We’ve never felt judged or what we had to say as unimportant, and the support is there 24/7. The online training we’ve done and will continue to do is very informative and supports what we do in our daily lives. We also have our individual supervising social worker who supports us on day-to-day stuff, and we also have support from the team parenting group which is a team of people from FCA and other agencies. We feel totally supported.”
He continues; “During the six months it took to complete the process, we met many FCA staff and they gave us lots of encouragement. Our work colleagues and neighbours soon got to know about our decision, and they all gave us tons of positive support.”
However, before becoming foster parents, Paul and Riccardo had considered the potential prejudices surrounding being gay foster parents, as Paul explains: “Our sexuality was a major consideration in our decision to foster. Riccardo and I, like many people from the LGBTQIA+ community, have faced and continue to face discrimination, but we are now of an age and have the experience to know how to deal with it. We know you can’t protect children all of the time, but we didn’t want any child in our care to experience discrimination, abuse or bullying because of our sexuality.
“Children in the care system already have to bear many emotional and physical issues. We knew our job was to try and help alleviate them not add to them. We’ve been fostering now for almost three years, and we have been fully embraced by all the families, schools and agencies involved in the care of the children we foster.”
The fostering journey so far has been an incredible experience for the couple, as they reveal; “For almost 24 years it was just us and our dogs and then suddenly we have a child and then a year later a second one. We’ve always been a good team, able to solve problems and being open and honest about how we’re feeling has helped. The added benefit we have is that there is always someone to talk to at FCA 365 days a year if we need help. The experience has definitely made us stronger as individuals and bonded our relationship.”
For anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community considering fostering, Paul and Riccardo have the following advice: “For too long our community has been told “you can’t do this, you can’t do that.” If you have love and compassion to give and the drive to help a child have a positive life and achieve their goals, then fostering is for you.”
Thinking about starting your fostering journey?
24/7 local support, Excellent ongoing training and competitive allowances are just a few of the reasons why you should choose us FCA for your fostering journey.
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