A young Somerset couple fostering two teenage brothers say parenting a family had always been a dream they felt they may never achieve, simply because they are the same sex.
Tristan and Luke, a gay couple in their 30s, say fostering has opened up a new world of fun, love and a host of new challenges – but they wouldn’t change it for the world.
Now, as Pride month raises awareness of the LGBTQ+ community, they want others to see that being gay is no barrier to fostering – all you need is resilience, patience and energy when caring for two teenage boys.
Tristan and Luke were approved as Somerset County Council foster carers around two years ago after deciding they wanted to provide a secure, stable and loving home for children who needed the support of a foster family
And, after a short spell as respite carers they took two young brothers under their wing – and say it’s an experience that has enriched their lives in a way they would never have imagined.
The boys have settled in well and, despite the challenges of the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, the four have created a tight family unit.
The two boys are still in touch with their mother and siblings, along with other members of their birth family. Maintaining and managing family contact is an important part of the fostering role.
Like so many families living with restrictions, Tristan and Luke admit there are minor frustrations, but that the boys have adapted exceptionally well to home schooling and the lack of everyday contact with friends.
The teenagers arrived as an emergency placement – but are now firmly part of the family. They have been encouraged to develop new interests from art to nature and have grown to love the family’s assorted animals, from bantam chicks to two small dogs.
And in turn, Tristan and Luke have discovered the thrills and spills of water parks, comic book conventions and rap music!
“I think like so many parents we will be really sad to see the boys fly the nest when they are older – but they know they can always count on us for support. They know we will be there for them,” said Luke.
They looked into fostering after deciding they wanted to care for children and underwent the necessary training and skills courses. It is fair to say their first placements – short-term emergencies – were challenging.
But, undaunted, they agreed to offer the young brothers a home and have developed a strong and trusting relationship with the boys, offering them the advice and guidance that they need.
Being a same sex couple has not been an issue – as they say: “The boys are the least judgemental. It’s just not been an issue. It may be because they have felt themselves being judged by others in the past.”
They also believe that their age – young for foster carers – and lack of previous parenting experience have worked in their favour. “We are young enough to vividly remember what it’s like being young and we are learning as we go along. Not having parented before helps us respect and empathise with each boy’s individual needs and experiences.
“We also know the support is there if we need it. When you start out on the fostering route, there are questions that may seem quite personal, but you can understand why they need to be asked. It didn’t put us off at all.
“What matters is that we try to give the boys the best start in life and to help them become the best they can be. They are part of our lives now.”
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Somerset County Council, said: “It is good to hear that this family is doing so well despite the challenges of the Coronavirus emergency. We need carers as diverse as the children in our care, particularly for teenagers, and recognise that what matters is a person’s commitment and qualities, not their age, religion, ethnic background or sexuality.”
Foster carers need a spare room in their home and must be at least 21 years old, with no upper age limit.
Fostering in Somerset would love to hear from anyone interested in fostering. To find out more visit http://www.fosteringinsomerset.org.uk or call 0800 587 9900 and speak to our friendly team, follow us on Facebook @fosteringinsomerset or Twitter @fostersomerset