Couples share their stories in LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering Week and say there are no barriers to doing right by children
This week is LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering Week. But what is it really like to adopt or foster as a single sex couple? Fiona Finch found out from two Lancashire couples for whom it has meant their lives have changed - for the better.
Life has gone full circle for Louise Jarvis-Worcester - and she couldn’t be happier.
The 37 year old was adopted as a baby and enjoyed a happy childhood.
In June 2020 she and her partner Clare,32, were proud and delighted to become adoptive parents too.
The couple, who married in 2014, live in Hoghton, near Preston and adopted through the regional agency Adoption Lancashire and Blackpool.
Louise said: “We made the decision together to look at adoption because going into it it’s as a partnership where we’re on a level footing, so not one of us carried (the baby) when the other hasn’t.
“Also because I was adopted from two days old we knew it would be the right decision. Me and my sister were both adopted and we had a very, very privileged upbringing.
“At the end of the day the way I look at it my mum and dad were there for us when ill or when I’d done something naughty, they were there to pick up the pieces if friendships/relationships broke down ... we had an amazing upbringing.”
Louise, who works in an admin role at the Royal Preston Hospital and hopes to train as a nurse in the future, said: “I’ve always wanted a child as long as I can remember. We wanted to make sure the time was right and we were OK financially. We’d got the house and everything. We didn’t want to rush. For the last eight years we thought long and hard about it. “
But by 2018 they decided the time was right. Initially Louise says they had wondered would they be welcomed in the role or would their partnership be seen as a barrier. But such concerns were quickly dispelled.
Their first placement was an infant who they cared for for 11 and a half months as “concurrent carers” - a phrase used to describe the time when a child is cared for before a court decides their future. In this instance the child was reunited with her family. Louise said: “We bridged back to the family. We had a little break then we started again. “
Just months later they welcomed the little girl who they were to adopt. Louise loves getting home from work and seeing their daughter: “She comes through the door and it’s mum, mum...I can’t put it into words. It’s impossible because there are no words to describe that feeling. As soon as we met her we fell in love with her instantly. We go shopping and people say is it Mummy and Mummy? They ask questions. I don’t mind that. I think it’s nice. We would like to adopt again at some point. We would definitely do it again.”
The couple also foster. Louise acknowledges that combining parenting roles with full time work is demanding but rewarding: “It’s not easy, but it can be done. In the space of two or three years we’ve gone from being a couple with a dog who can go here, there and everywhere whenever we like.”
But she said: “ I wouldn’t change it for the world...It’s not easy in any shape or form to be a parent. You get it wrong sometimes while you also get it right.”
Foster parents Dianne and Bev Fenna-Winder have fostered nine youngsters in the past eight years and wish they had started earlier.
They began fostering when it became clear early retirement was not suiting Dianne.
She had had her own fashion business in Kendal, while Bev worked in the retail fashion industry. Reflecting on raising their own children they began to wonder - would fostering be the right next step?
Both Dianne, 55, and Bev, 69, who live near Lancaster, had a background in child care, having run their own nursery in Rishton for many years. Between them they have seven children, nine grandchildren and a great granddaughter from their previous marriages. They have been together 25 years.
Dianne said: “I took early retirement and it lasted 12 months and (I was) completely bored silly. The kids had flown the nest. We thought we did a really good job with the kids and thought why not? We just made provisional enquiries ... We only went for some information and we’ve never looked back! We looked at the whole package and we decided to go forward with it. It’s gone from being complete glamour to never having time to get my hair done, never mind putting fake nails on!”
Asked if they had experienced any hostility or opposition from other people about their decision to foster Dianne said: “No, honestly. never...I think Lancashire County Council do pride themselves on saying there are no barriers whatever if you are a same sex couple or a single person it doesn’t matter ... there are no barriers... We are quite positive people. We are positive about us and our relationship.
“It can be challenging fostering but the training you get from Lancashire County Council really does give you the tools you need to rise to the challenge.”
The support of a social worker “on the end of the phone” is also a great reassurance she said, adding: “Yes it’s a busy life ... It’s having the patience, the understanding and the sense of humour with it that’s vital. You do have to have bags of patience and a lot of understanding. Our energy levels are high. It does keep you very young and there isn’t an age barrier either. It’s really a wonderful thing to do. These children come into your home. They are really vulnerable. They are always scared. What we are doing is giving them a hand really - they start blossoming and gain that confidence.”
Bev said: “I don’t think it matters what your background is as long as you do right by the children. It doesn’t matter whether you’re same sex, mixed or single, young or old - there’s no discrimination. It’s certainly been a joy - because we are still doing it.”
* To find out more about fostering call 0300 123 6723 or see the Lancashire County Council website www.lancashire.gov.uk/fostering. To find out more about adoption call 0300 123 6727 or visit the Adoption Lancashire and Blackpool website or www.adoptionlancashireblackpool.org.uk
LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering Week encourages more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender+ people to consider adoption and fostering. This year's campaign is called Build Your Family and is focusing on myth busting and answering common questions raised by the LGBT+ community when considering fostering or building their family through adoption.
An online information event will be held on Thursday, March 4, from 3pm - 5pm. Staff will be available from both the adoption and fostering recruitment teams, as well as adopters and foster carers. For details see www.lancashire.gov.uk/fostering or www.adoptionlancashireblackpool.org.uk
*To be considered as foster carers, people need to be over 21, and living in or close to Lancashire. To be considered as an adopter, people need to be over 21, and living in or close to Lancashire or Blackpool.
*There are currently 12 children in Lancashire awaiting adoption but a spokesperson said there were "no current potential matches for them." The demand for foster carers has remained high during the current coronavirus pandemic with around 20 new children coming into care in Lancashire each week.
Councils' and adoption agency's message is: "There are no barriers"
County Coun Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: "We have many same-sex couples, or single people from the LGBT+ community in Lancashire and Blackpool who are providing stable and loving homes for children and young people who cannot live with their own families.We always need more foster carers and adoptive parents from all walks of life, and I want to remind people that we welcome applications from people of all ages, sexuality, gender, single, married, cohabiting, in same-sex relationships, with or without their own children, working or not."
Diane Booth, chair of the Regional Adoption Agency Board, said: "There is no such thing as a typical adopter. We welcome applications from people of any sexuality or gender – you don’t have to be married or have a partner either, we have lots of excellent single adopters. What matters is that you can open your hearts and open your homes to a child who may have not had the greatest start in life.The adoption process includes everyone – having children can be for everyone."
Coun Lynn Williams, Blackpool Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We know from experience that LGBT+ people often come to adoption and fostering with an open mind and real enthusiasm as it’s often their first choice for growing their family. Many of our children have had a traumatic start to life, and we’ve seen them thrive with their new parents. There is no typical foster carer or adopter – we need people with stability, love and resourcefulness who can help a child with whatever needs they may have.”
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