Family is very important to myself and my partner. In the first couple of months of our relationship we had discussed if we wanted a family and had brief conversations and how we could go about it if we wanted to make a family together. Before meeting me, she thought she would want to become a solo parent utilising artificial insemination. I was still unsure about how I wanted to become a parent, but I had always been very interested in adoption and both of us had considered fostering at some point.
When you are a queer couple, and you are considering building a family it can be both liberating and – to be perfectly honest – a pain in the arse.
When we were talking about how we wanted to start a family it was so freeing to have so many options available to us and not to be constrained to heteronormative roles. We started having deeper conversations about parenting roles that appealed to us and did not and what family really meant to us. Stepping into this journey feels very intentional and like we have invested so much into it even though we do not have a child in our home yet. However, some of the procedures to achieve pregnancy, if you wished to start a family through pregnancy, are costly and invasive. This tinged the conversations with sadness as it made our dreams seem further away and less achievable.
As a couple who were both assigned female at birth our main options were adoption, insemination of one partner with donor sperm or reciprocal IVF. We had conversations about each of these options in turn and weighed up the pros and cons of each. We ended up concluding that adoption was the right option for us. This was due to several reasons, we both feel that family doesn’t have to be related to you, it is just the people that love and support you. Also, we are mindful that there are many children that need a loving home that do not have one and the environmental implications of creating a new human. We both knew we want 3 or more children, so if we were adopting, we would like to adopt a sibling group, as we are aware that siblings find it more difficult to find adoptive families. However, that left us with one last hurdle to cross. Buying a house that is big enough to support our future family.
So, that became the plan, save up money to buy a house big enough to have 3+ children. We joined some groups about adopting and fostering and slowly became more aware about what fostering was. As we were learning more about fostering, we also started noticing more adverts from our local Council reaching out for more people to consider becoming foster carers. We sat down and had a big conversation about it. We had the time, finances, love, patience, and space to become foster carers, so the decision was quite easy and natural for us to make. We decided to call our local council and make an enquiry.
Prior to starting the process we were a bit nervous about how we would be perceived as a same sex couple. We had heard some negative stories in the media about the way LGBTQ+ people were treated in the system, but we also had seen a lot of fostering agencies and local authorities encouraging LGBTQ+ people to consider applying so we didn’t know how we would be taken. In addition to this, we live in a small town so even walking down the high road holding hands invites a lot of staring and whispering, how would adding a child into the mix affect that?
We had our first telephone conversation in which we were screened for our suitability and we passed, it was rather uneventful. We then had to fill out a variety of forms and provide information for our DBS and wait for our assessing social worker to contact us. We were given a document to complete which started the introspective element of the assessment process. I think this has been one of the key elements of significance of our experience of the assessment process. During assessment we have been asked to think very deeply on many aspects of lives and childhoods. One of the main things for us was having to explore how we were parented, what we liked and what we would change. We’ve had to examine our own triggers and traumas to be more present and mindful if we have a child living with us not to repeat cycles or bounce off of the child’s traumas. This for me has been incredibly transformational, I’m more aware of why I act in the ways that I do which I think has made me more tolerant, patient and empathetic. Additionally, because of this process, as a couple we have had to share experiences, thoughts and ideas that we might not have done if we didn’t go through this process and decided to have birth children. I think this has made us a stronger, better connected couple. I would definitely recommend to anyone regardless of how they want to become a parent, to look at some of the workbooks/resources that foster carers and adopters have to complete to inspire deeper understanding of one another and how you relate to parenting.
A week or so after we filled in our first booklet, our social worker got in touch. From what we had read about the process we were expecting it to be invasive and at times a bit uncomfortable. I can say we honestly never felt that way. Our assessing social worker was so lovely, warm and understanding. All the worries we had about how we would be perceived were soon a shadow of a memory. She was very encouraging of us and was able to have direct conversations about our sexuality and relationship where necessary and appropriate, she never dismissed or over-emphasised our experiences. We looked forward to all of our sessions as they were really interesting and informative.
There were never any jarring moments regarding our sexuality, the only thing I can think of was one form that we filled in regarding our relationship that asked what our roles in the relationship were.
We struggled a little bit with that task as we don’t have defined roles, but that could be exclusive to our relationship and not really applicable to the LGBT community, overall, it didn’t really bother us. One event I did find quite funny was, as the social worker was preparing us for panel, she reminded us that we would have to exclusively mention who was who. She reminded us that as we both have feminine names and appear feminine, people who don’t already know us individually wouldn’t be able to make an assumption on who was who. It made me chuckle a bit because I entirely forgot that was a thing and that that was the most significant ‘issue’ we found as a same-sex couple applying to be foster carers.
We are currently awaiting our panel meeting, which is next week. Following this meeting we will be made aware if the board of professionals recommend us to be foster carers and within 2 weeks of this meeting we will find out if we have been approved or not. I can’t say that we are nervous as we have been supported and guided so well by our assessing social worker, they have even found a same sex couple to mentor us as new foster carers! Overall, I am so happy and grateful we have been through this process, regardless of the outcome, it has been an incredible, transformational journey for us individually and as a couple. Going forward, the only thing I am mindful of is how we will be perceived by the wider community and children as same-sex foster carers (also how we will both feel with sleep deprivation). However, I do feel confident that we will be as well supported as we have been up to this point which puts me at ease.