LGBT+ fostering has its critics, but we’re proving them wrong say March couple

Lee and Martin Shaw, who specialise in fostering teenagers with various needs and difficult past exp

Lee and Martin Shaw, who specialise in fostering teenagers with various needs and difficult past experiences, hope that sharing their story will inspire others from the LGBT+ community to consider fostering. Picture: FOSTER CARE ASSOCIATES. - Credit: Archant

A March couple who foster teenagers with various needs have shared their story in the hope that it will inspire others from the LGBT+ community to foster. Lee, 54, and partner Martin, 56, made the leap into fostering in 2011.

The pair were delighted when their application with Foster Care Associates, a top 100 employer for the LGBT+ community, was approved. Since then, they have fostered six children on a long-term basis, as well as several other young people on part-time arrangements and respite placements.

Before fostering, Lee worked in child and adolescent mental health, while Martin worked as a community nurse.

Having both come from care backgrounds, they saw fostering as a way of offering children a stable, loving home while realising their own dream of having a family.

For Martin, there was a lot of initial negativity that he believes could put other same-sex couples off fostering.

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He said: “Some other carers were sceptical and quite critical of us when we began fostering, which we feel was out of ignorance more than anything else.

“There was an assumption that, as a gay couple, we wouldn’t be able to provide the loving, stable home that young people need.

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“Fortunately, we’ve been able to dispel those fears and prove that LGBT+ couples make fantastic foster carers.”

Over the last seven years, Lee and Martin have opened their home to several teenagers.

Currently they foster three boys, who will stay with them until they are 21.

When asked what the most rewarding thing about their role is, they agreed that it is seeing young people progress and succeed, particularly socially and at school.

Martin said: “We fostered a young boy who came to the UK unable to speak English.

“While in our care, his language skills and confidence came on leaps and bounds, helping fuel his success at school. “There is really no better result than seeing these young people thriving and achieving beyond expectation.”

The couple currently foster a young person that suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). The condition affects behaviour and learning, which has been challenging for Lee and Martin.

However, following six years in their care, the boy has improved at home and in school, and will remain in their care until he’s 21.

When discussing the challenges that LGBT+ foster carers face, the couple agreed that they’d had to overcome a few hurdles when working alongside teachers and other members of the public.

Martin said: “Almost all professionals that you come into contact with assume that, as foster carers, you must be a heterosexual couple.

“I can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve received letters addressed to Mr and Mrs.

“However, luckily for us, it’s never been malicious – it’s simply a matter of educating people.

“The best way to change these perceptions is to encourage more LGBT+ people to foster and dispel any rumours that it’s not possible.”

According to the Department of Education, there are more than 72,000 looked after children in need of foster care across the UK.

Martin and Lee are urging other LGBT+ couples not to be put off by assumptions that they’ll be looked at unfavourably, but advise anybody considering fostering to consider what the fact that it is a 24/7 job.

Martin said: “Everybody, whether LGBT+ or not, needs to think carefully about the reasons they want to become foster carers, because the day-to-day work is not easy.

“It’s a round the clock job that requires patience and understanding.

“However, despite the challenges, it’s incredibly rewarding and we’re so proud to do what we do.”

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