This week is LGBT Adoption and Fostering week in the UK. We met with two foster families to find out how they came to be foster carers as well as the difficulties they encounter when travelling as a family.
Darren Sharpe and Jamie Lewton both share their experiences of the fostering process and the joy they've felt by having their own family.
Darren Sharpe, aged 32, is a full-time foster carer from Ashford, Kent – with no birth children of his own.
family in 2012 alongside his partner and were given the family they've always craved.
Since qualifying as foster carers, the couple can provide care for up to three placements at a time – and for those who are in respite, short-term and long-term placements. In total, together, they've helped the lives of 20 children.
starting with one night at a time and then moving on to full weekends.
“Now he loves going away and it's often a reward for his good behaviour. He loves London and we have been to do so many things that we never would have done before such as museums, going to theatre shows and site seeing.
“He is desperate to go on a plane and we are still working up to that one. We have been to France on the ferry for a day and we're looking at maybe doing a weekend at Edinburgh Festival, so that he can experience his first flight.”
With the ability to cope with challenging situations, and with backgrounds in education, childcare and community work, Darren and his partner, are considered a resilient foster carer unit, who have experience working with children and the disaffected youth.
More recently, Darren, despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013, has continued his fostering career. And with no evident symptoms and with the support from Heath Farm Fostering, the couple's family unit currently consists of a 12 year old boy, who has Global Developmental Delay (GDD) and is currently being assessed for autism.
We've fostered him for four years as part of a long-term placement. During this time, he's has grown to be part of our family.
He didn't have the best start to life and was faced with several challenges that he wasn't old enough to understand.
Without stability or the appropriate type of care – which we have worked hard to provide for him – his confidence had diminished and he found it hard to trust adults.
With our care, he's been able to focus on tasks and has discovered talents he didn't know he had – he is a fantastic chef in the making.
When first in the couple's care, the young boy attended a behavioural needs school and struggled with authority. With hard work, persistence and consistency, Darren and his partner were eventually able to move him to a more appropriate school where he was able to focus on education.
Jamie Lewton and Simon Midgeley
Yorkshire carers, Jamie and Simon, both aged 30, say providing a home for children in care has changed their lives.
Jamie, a former HR consultant, who now works as a full-time foster carer with partner Simon, were approved to foster two years ago (2014).
Since then the Leeds based couple, who are approved to care for up to two people in emergency, respite or short-term placements, have been able to support seven vulnerable children and teenagers.
Looking back the couple recall their first placement, a seven year old boy who arrived at their family home within hours of the first call from Fostering Solutions.
There was some nervousness at first, but after hard work, persistence and the stability the couple were able and willing to offer, the boy grew to be confident and comfortable with the care of Jamie and Simon. Their competence even allowed bridges to be built with the birth parents, through working with the supporting social worker.
Quickly setting routines and providing the basics, like clean clothes and food, positive changes were quickly noticeable. Attendance at school rose to 98 per cent and even teachers acknowledged the change – rewarding the boy for hard work and completing homework.
Jamie said; “Your first placement is something you never forget – we were nervous. Suddenly it is all very real and the responsibility can feel overwhelming but you get there – it's all part of the learning experience.
“I don't think you can ever be fully prepared for that first placement but you gain confidence, the longer you foster. You realise the call can come at any time and you need to be ready.
“At a time when a lot of our friends are still partying, our lives revolve around school runs, mealtimes and homework, and we love it, it's a very satisfying way to live and work.”
Today, their current extended family unit includes two boys – aged nine and 16. “At the moment we have a 16-year-old living with us and it's been great seeing him settle and develop – knowing we're able to provide him with that platform to grow.
“For us it's been important to establish a safe, loving home for him, with clear boundaries and the kind of routine that all young people respond well to.
“There are challenges but we feel we have been really well supported by the team at Fostering Solutions. You know you can call on them at any time – there's no such thing as a silly question, they will listen. It really is a partnership approach and we hope to be doing this for a long time to come.”
Since being in the couples care, the two boys, who are from seperate families, have developed an bond. Jamie adds; “It's great to see two very different young people come together from very different backgrounds and get along. You start to see a strong bond develop and feeling of shared experience. Both complement each other and the relationship they establish now really will support their future development.”
When it comes to travelling, the couple have said there are a few challenges to overcome.
“We have experience days out and weekends away but yet to experience a full holiday, which is due to happen at Easter.
“The challenges we have faced are in relation to passports. Getting a social worker who has know the young person for over five years or receiving their old passport can take time and be tricky with so many changes. Both of our young people are lucky enough to be on separate passports, however when it comes to renewing them we know we will need extra time to sort.
“When it means going on holiday, the only added extra is letting our social worker and the children's social worker know our plans but the stronger the relationship the easier the process.”