A couple from Brighton and Hove have opened up about being foster parents to mark LGBT Fostering and Adoption Week.
Chris and Kieran were one of the first gay couples to sign up to be foster parents when they first applied to Lambeth Council 22 years ago.
They have since moved to Brighton, and have fostered 11 young people long term with Brighton and Hove City Council, They have also supported children in numerous short term, emergency and respite placements.
They went onto adopt one of their foster children who has since got married and had a baby. They said they have seen difficult children transform before their eyes and have had bucketfuls of tears and laughter over the years.
The pair revealed why they decided to become foster parents, and their experience over the last two decades.
“I was lucky to grow up in a house that was always busy and always supportive to friends and family going through difficult times,” said Kieran. “Fostering seemed like a natural fit for Chris and I.
Chris said: “When we lived in London, we both had good jobs, a big house and a great lifestyle. It got to the point where we felt we’d done everything we wanted to for ourselves and we both felt it was time to give something back. We were ready to be less selfish. I was a teacher and also had experience of working with difficult and troubled teenagers so fostering just seemed like a natural extension of this.”
Giving advice on what qualities you need to be a foster carer, Chris said: “You need to be tolerant, patient, have a sense of humour and be consistent in the boundaries you set for your foster children.”
Kieran added: “You need to be able to offer emotional and practical support which they’ve often never had before. Sometimes the simplest things like buying new clothes that fit them and having an evening meal every night together at the same time will provide such pleasure for the children.”
On the best thing about being a foster parent, Chris said: “When you see them get jobs or go to college or university, it’s great to have been part of this development. Seeing them create bonds with the other children we foster. We have such a large extended family now and are in touch with all of the children we’ve fostered. We love meal times when we get together and have the chance to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.”
Kieran said: “At our adopted son’s wedding, the best man was one of our other foster children as were two of the ushers. It’s wonderful to see how our foster children are so close, they may have nothing in common to begin with except us but then they share this bond and look out for each other.”
Giving advice to other couples thinking about fostering, Chris said: “You’re not going to be able to change things overnight. Be patient, stick with it, recognise you’re in it for the long haul and establish boundaries and expectations at the beginning. The aim of fostering is to facilitate the children becoming independent and creating a stable and safe environment for them to flourish.”
Kieran said: “You get to understand why children behave a certain way, there’s always a reason behind it so don’t take things personally. Enjoy the experience moment to moment. Have fun and laugh lots.”
To find out more about becoming a foster parent visit: www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk/