Sunderland foster parents urge more people from LGBTQ+ community to consider fostering

A foster couple from Sunderland are calling on more people from the LGBTQ+ community to consider fostering.

Rae and Sam Farmer, both 45 from Sunderland, have been fostering with The Fostering Company North East for three years, since qualifying to become foster carers in 2019.

They say fostering has changed their lives for the better.

The Fostering Company, based in North Tyneside, said their appeal comes against a backdrop of a dire need for more foster parents, with 80,850 children in the care system across England.

Rae and Sam are encouraging others to think about fostering.

Research from LGBTQ+ charity New Family Social has suggested that if one percent of the LGBTQ+ community was to foster, there would be no children waiting for a safe and loving place to call home.

Rae and Sam said: “We first considered fostering in 2018 after deciding that it was the right time for us to try and support children in care.

"Rae adopted our son, who’s now 18 years old, back in 2009 so we were already familiar with having what we know as a blended family, and we were really happy to grow that further.

"Since making that choice, the children we’ve fostered have enriched our family life so much that we haven’t looked back.”

Rae and Sam are encouraging others to think about fostering.

Currently in Rae and Sam’s care are siblings Jonah and Josh (not their real names) who are with the couple on a short-term placement with the hope that it will be extended to long-term, meaning there is a potential for the boys to remain in the couple’s care until they are ready to live independently as adults.

Sam said: “From the smiles and the laughs, or when a little one says to you they don’t feel good and want a hug, fostering has taught us how to appreciate that what others may view as the small things, is actually a great deal for a child in care. The effort and courage it might take for a child to build up enough trust to want to hug you is not something we take for granted.

"It’s through fostering that we’ve learnt how to think about things from a child’s perspective and we try to do this as much as we can with the two brothers in our care right now.”

She added: “When the boys first arrived at our home, they were very withdrawn and really had their barriers up, but as we started to get to know them, the more they’ve got to know and trust us.

Rae and Sam are encouraging others to think about fostering.

"Now they smile when they watch Mary Poppins, a film we introduced them to for the first time, they laugh when they squeeze sunscreen on the football by accident instead of their arms, and they get excited when we ask them if they want to make biscuits. They’re now curious to absorb life and experience as much as possible, and for us, being part of the process that has enriched their lives is a real privilege.”

On advice to anyone across the LGBTQ+ community thinking of fostering, Rae said: “Fostering is not easy, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it is also the most rewarding. If you’re thinking about fostering, there’s lots of information out there and lots of people to share their experiences on fostering.”

Sam added: “We foster with The Fostering Company North East and the team has been incredible in providing lots of training and lots of support and they constantly remind us that there is always someone on the other end of the phone whenever we need it.

"The support you receive as a foster carer is brilliant, so if you’re thinking of fostering, know you will be supported every step of the way.”

Camilla Hunter, Registered Manager at The Fostering Company North East, said: “With thousands of more foster carers needed to support the growing number of children and young people in the care system in Sunderland, we are in desperate need for more people to consider fostering.

“It’s extremely important to have a diverse range of foster carers across the North East to reflect the diversity of the children and young people entering the care system and provide role models from all walks of life.

"We have some amazing LGBTQ+ foster carers like Rae and Sam who are positive changes in the lives of children and young people and we’d encourage anyone who is interested in doing the same, to get in touch.”

People from all backgrounds can become foster carers, but must be over 25 years of age.

This includes single people, co-habiting couples, couple regardless of gender identity and sexuality and people living in rented accommodation – but you must have a spare bedroom available, and be able to offer a safe and stable home.

For more information on foster care, visit https://thefosteringcompanyneltd.co.uk/, call the enquiries team on 01912 836 774 or email [email protected]