Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
The rewards of fostering
National children’s charity Barnardo’s is running its fostering and adoption campaign this week.
As more than 30 new couples are being sought in the region to give children a loving home, misconceptions that only straight couples can apply are being shattered.
Reporter Kimberly Middleton spoke to Syd and Kevin from Brighton, who are restoring five-year-old Stephanie’s faith that not all adults will give up on her.
Syd says it was not a difficult decision to become a foster parent.
After growing up in the care system in the 1970s and 1980s, he was determined to give a child the chance to have a family.
The 43-year-old said: “My drive was to do it right and make sure a child didn’t feel as rejected as I had and use my experiences for something positive.”
His partner Kevin, 46, came from a large family and after years of careful discussions, they decided they were ready to give a child a home.
He said they briefly considered surrogacy but “very much wanted to give a child that was already born and didn’t have a family a chance to have one”.
Six months ago they welcomed five-year-old Stephanie (not her real name) into their Brighton home.
Syd said: “It’s everything that we would imagine parenting would be and more.
“It’s great fun and has changed my life for the better.
“She’s intelligent and funny and makes me laugh every day.
“She keeps me on my toes and I’m always rushing about and being energetic now.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world and would happily stand on a pedestal and encourage people who are disabled, gay, straight, black or white to do it.”
Kevin, who works as a bus driver, said: “Fostering Stephanie has been so rewarding.
“At first she wasn’t sure what to call us, we said she could call us whatever she wanted but she chose to call Syd dad and me daddy.
“It was totally her choice and she loves to tell people she has two dads now.
“She had been moved a lot and told us she wanted a ‘forever family’ and we’re hoping that’s just what we can be to her.”
At her first day at school they told their daughter she didn’t have to tell her new school mates she had two dads.
But she proudly marched out of the playground at the end of the day declaring she had told everyone – and no one was bothered.
Support and advice
They chose to foster with Barnardo’s because of the charity’s “good, healthy approach to same-sex couples fostering”.
Syd said: “We talked to Stephanie about the possibility of being bullied at school.
“We approached Barnardo’s about our concerns about being same-sex parents and they gave us information and advice and are always around for us to talk to.
“A single man or woman can bring up a child and make them feel safe and nurture them.
“Your sexuality is irrelevant. We’re honest with her and she knows she can talk to us about anything.
“She got a bit confused when they were talking about gay marriage on the news and we explained we’re in a civil partnership.”
The couple have chosen to speak out to encourage other people to go into fostering for the charity’s fostering and adoption week this week.
Rachel Maloney, children’s services manager at Barnardo’s Fostering, south east, said: “There is sometimes a misconception about who can foster.
“You can be single, married, divorced or living with someone and be any sexuality, race or religion.
“What you do need is commitment, lots of energy and patience, as well as being able to offer a child a loving and secure home.”
There are about 460 children in care in Brighton and Hove, looked after by the city’s 130 foster parents, carers working for independent fostering agencies or living in a children’s home if they have particular or special needs.
A council spokesman said: “We are always looking to recruit more carers to our in-house team because we know they will benefit from the excellent support our carers receive from our fostering and integrated children’s services teams and other local support networks.
“It’s also because having a wider pool of carers makes it easier for us to ensure a good match between children with carers.”
There are 394 foster homes in West Sussex, 25 of which have been approved since April 2012 to look after the 482 children in foster placements.
East Sussex County Council is on target to recruit 48 new foster carers from 2012 to 2013, adding to the more than 250 households which are already looking after most of the 620 children in the county.
A total of 142 children have been adopted through the council in the last four years, a process heralded by the Government when it announced an adoption reform process last year.
Syd and Kevin hope to adopt Stephanie later this year.
Syd said: “Any child comes with an amount of emotional baggage.
“We’re very much teaching Stephanie about trying to live in the present rather than in the past.
“We want to teach her that things don’t always go wrong, adults aren’t always going to give up on her, that she can look forward to her next birthday or Christmas and plan ahead.
“She tells everyone she has two dads and she’s proud of it.
“Being a parent is amazing and scary. And we are so proud of her.”
- Find out more about fostering and visit www.barnardos.org.uk/adoptionandfostering or call the South East team on 01892 510 650. Barnardo’s Brighton and Hove Link Plus is also looking for short breaks carers to provide breaks for disabled children in their homes. Anyone who would like to find out more about becoming a short breaks carer can call the service on 01273 295 179.
- Brighton and Hove City Council’s fostering team is holding its next fostering session on February 12 from 7pm until 8.30pm. The event is at Church House, 211 New Church Road, Hove, or call the team on 01273 295444, visit www.fosteringinbrightonandhove.org.uk or email email@example.com.
- East Sussex County Council has launched a new campaign called Could You Fill This Space? Potential families and carers for children in need able to provide loving, caring support can visit www.fillaspace.co.uk or call 01323 464129.
- For more information about fostering and adoption in West Sussex email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01403 229333.
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- David Cameron rejects Caroline Lucas' Page 3 ban call
- Looking Back: Littlehampton fishermen's fight for livelihoods
- New report reveals Brighton seafront is the city's most pressing concern
- Speakers to debate gay marriage proposal
- Jeremy Forrest's 'caring nature' led to his troubles, his sister claims