To celebrate LGBT fostering and adoption week from March 6-12, we chat to Brighton residents, Chris and Kieran about their experiences as foster parents for over 20 years.
Chris and Kieran foster with Brighton and Hove City Council and have fostered 11 young people long-term as well as 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 have seen difficult children transform before their eyes and have had bucketful’s of tears and laughter over the years.
Wow, 22 years is a long time fostering! What made you want to foster in the first place?
Kieran – I was lucky to grow up in a house that was always busy and always supportive to friends and family going through difficult times. Fostering seemed like a natural fit for Chris and I.
Chris – 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.
What was it like being assessed?
We initially fostered with Lambeth council. 22 years ago. We were one of the first gay couples to foster so it took a long time to get through the process, I imagine it is much more straightforward for gay couples now.
What qualities do you need to be a foster carer?
Chris – You need to be tolerant, patient, have a sense of humour and be consistent in the boundaries you set for your foster children.
Kieran – 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.
What is the best thing about being a foster parent?
Kieran – Seeing the children develop and mature and then move onto independent living.
Chris – 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 – 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.
What have you learnt about yourselves through fostering?
Chris – To recognise our own limitations and to seek support if we need it.
What advice would you give to other couples thinking about fostering?
Chris – 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 – 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.
How has your experience been with Brighton and Hove City Council?
Chris – We’ve had a fantastic experience with Brighton and Hove City Council and have felt supported throughout. We’ve had some brilliant social workers and there has been a wide range of training available which has been great so we’d always recommend them to people considering fostering.
If you’re interested in fostering with Brighton and Hove City Council, Chris and Kieran will be running a drop in session at the end of March where you’ll be able to ask them questions.
Keep a look out on the Fostering Teams Facebook Page for dates.
There will be an information session on March 7 at Rottingdean Whiteway Centre at 7pm.
To find out more about fostering with Brighton and Hove County Council, click here:
Or telephone: 01273 295444