Interview: Tor Docherty from NFS on LGBT+ adoption and fostering

There were 78,150 children in care in 2019, despite adoptions by same-sex couples reaching a record.

Social Care Today spoke with Tor Docherty, chief executive of New Family Social, about LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering Week and why more LGBT+ people need to rule themselves in, not out, as potential adopters and foster carers.

How did New Family Social start?

New Family Social started as an email distribution list of LGBT+ adoptive parents in 2007 and has grown to be the only national LGBT+ adoption and fostering charity in the UK.

It provides support, improves the treatment of LGBT+ people in the adoption and fostering process, encourages inclusion and works directly with its members and agencies to find more new families for children in care.

It also provides a social network, with events and forums, for LGBT+ adoptive parents and foster carers, gives its members a strong voice and provides direct help to LGBT+ adopters, foster carers and agencies.

What are some of the challenges LGBT+ adopters and foster carers face?

Some groups still rule themselves out, when they would make amazing adopters or foster carers. They think , such as living with HIV, being non-binary, prior experience of mental health issues, and starting the process over the age of 40.

When my partner and I began the process of adoption eight years ago, I thought that being a same-sex couple would go against us. I also have MS, so I figured you had to be ‘perfect’ to be able to adopt. But it turned out my ‘imperfections’ are the things that make me a good adopter.

If your life has been smooth sailing, it’s harder to prove that you have good coping skills. You have no evidence of how you handle tough situations, how you can advocate for yourself or how you can seek help when things get hard.

The 100 agencies are running days to specifically ask people to come forward. They are asking LGBT+ people to consider adoption because they have that experience.

How have things changed since it became legal for same-sex couples to adopt?

From the earliest days of adoption in England, it has been possible for single people (regardless of sexual orientation) to adopt. Same-sex couples and unmarried could not adopt, although adoption agencies were willing to approve one member of the couple as an individual.

It took a change in law from December 2005 to allow adoption orders to be granted to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples.

After the law passed, LGBT+ thought they would be the second choice, that agencies would have them but reluctantly. But in reality, most agencies were on board from the start and the ones that weren’t closed.

Now one in seven adoptions is to a same-sex couple. For trans people, the numbers are smaller but it’s increasing all the time.

There are misunderstandings, there’s definitely work to be done but agencies are willing, they’re signing up to learn how to work better with trans adopters and fosterers.

We also run a summer camp for LGBT+ families and the volunteers can come along and get some experience working with the kids. They nearly always end up coming along the next year and by the third or fourth year, they are back with kids of their own. It’s really magical to see that.

It’s a great event for LGBT+ parents because they get some peer support and it’s nice for the kids that go as well because they aren’t facing questions about their parents because everyone is from similar backgrounds.

A lot of LGBT people still have to explain their family situation to other people, but you forget how diverse families are these days.

It’s a misconception that everyone is being raised by a mum and a dad. In the vast majority of families, there are divorces, so people can have two mums or dads in the form of biological and step-parents, some kids are raised by their grandparents or their siblings or their uncles and aunties.

The sexuality or gender of parents is just one aspect of a family, not the defining feature.

What is LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week?

LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week is led by New Family Social and brings together 100 agencies to encourage more LGBT+ people to find out more about these routes into parenthood. More than 100 information sessions are taking place across the country to mark the campaign.

‘Why Not You?’ – the theme for LGBT+ Adoption & Fostering Week 2020 – tackles many of the myths that deter people from exploring these family-building routes.

Myths around your eligibility shouldn’t dissuade some LGBT+ people from exploring the adoption and fostering processes. Our country’s most vulnerable children desperately need adoptive parents and foster carers and LGBT+ people should rule themselves in, not out as part of the solution – there are agencies across the country keen to speak with them.

If people are sitting at home and thinking this might be for them, get in touch. Just phone up and ask.

There are children out there who are desperate for a good family to love and care for them.

For more information click here.

Photo Credit – Tor Docherty

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