This month is LGBT+ History Month, and this year the organisers have chosen a quote by Martin Luther King Jr, which got the Affinity team thinking; “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. This year also sees the fiftieth anniversary of the first Gay Pride Rally in London, a carnival parade of protest aimed, as Peter Tatchell put it, “to come out of the shadows and stand up for our rights”. LGBT+ History Month shows us that positive changes have happened and allows us to understand the struggle that many have gone through to get us here.
It seems unbelievable that only fifty years ago, lesbian mothers were having their children removed by the courts because of their sexuality. At the same time in the USA, social workers in Seattle began to secretly foster LGBT+ children into LGBT+ households. Even though it was against the law to make such decisions, the social workers decided that it would be better for LGBT+ teenagers to experience households that could understand and empathise with them. There was even a slogan, “Don’t matter if you’re straight or gay, all you need to get a start, an empty room, an honest heart”, a sentiment that Affinity still believes today.
Sometimes it is good to look back to consider how far we have come. Nowadays, anyone can apply to be a foster carer, and Affinity seriously considers applications from anyone who applies to us. In fact, we positively encourage applications from members of the LGBTQ+ population. In 2019 Children’s Rights (a charity in the USA) published a report that discovered that 30.4% of young people in foster care in the States identified as LGBTQ+ and 5% as transgender; this statistic was compared to 11.2% of young people not living in foster care. While similar statistics don’t exist in the UK, there is a likelihood that it would be a similar percentage.
For a young person who has already lived a tumultuous life, coming out or coming to terms with their gender identity can be a complex process. So, it makes sense that they should have an opportunity to live with people who have undergone a similar journey. The Fostering Network estimates that there are around 7,000 LGBTQ+ fostering families in the UK, but there is definitely space for more. If just 1% of the LGBTQ+ population were to adopt or foster, there wouldn’t be a waiting list for children to find homes anymore! We think that there are plenty of empty rooms and honest hearts just waiting to be filled.
LGBT+ History Month is also a great way to begin conversations with the young people who live with you. Discussing the journey to where we are today enables them to ask questions and potentially be more open about how they identify. In 2020/21, coming out was the top concern for LGBTQ+ young people who called Childline, with many of them worried about how people would react, whether they would be taken seriously, and that they couldn’t be themselves. The NSPCC has created a brilliant resource on how to support a young person or child with coming out, and Childline has created a section on their website to support them in identifying how they feel.
If you identify as LGBTQ+ and are interested in becoming a foster carer, we’d love to chat about how you can join the Affinity Family. So get in touch for a chat.