Rallying calls for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community to become parents are sweeping Greater Manchester during LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week.
Running until March 10, the nationwide initiative is organised by New Family Social – the LGBT adopters and foster carers support network – to encourage the community to provide much-needed homes for children.
And with an estimated shortage of 1,700 foster carers in the North West, councils and individuals across the borough have spoken out in favour of the project.
Lesbian mum Helen Lawson, 38, adopted two children four years ago with her partner through Salford City Council and urged other LGBT people to do the same.
“The children have totally changed our lives and I’d say to anyone thinking of adopting or fostering, just go for it. It’s a wonderful thing, particularly as a gay couple, to create your own family,” she said.
“My son’s friends did ask why he had two mums but we just answered all their questions honestly and they were fine with it.”
Helen now sits on adoption panels to help and assess other prospective adoptive parents so they can enjoy the same experience.
“Every couple is judged on their own personal merit and ability to become parents or foster carers, not on their sexuality because it’s all about doing what’s best for the children,” she added.
Salford City Council is backing LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week and said it urgently needs more foster carers and adopters to come forward.
Councillor John Merry, Assistant Mayor for Services for Children and Young People, said: “We will consider people of all ages, backgrounds, sexual orientation and both single people and couples whether they live in Salford or outside the city.
“You don’t need to be working, you don’t need to own your own home and you don’t need extensive experience with children as, if you are accepted for training, we will give you all the preparation and on-going support you need.”
Oldham Council’s Adoption and Fostering Services are also encouraging people of any sexuality or ethnicity to provide a loving, stable home.
Councillor Hugh McDonald, Cabinet Member for Education and Safeguarding, said: “Many people unnecessarily rule themselves out because they think they are unsuitable or they fear that they won’t be made to feel welcome.
“Here in Oldham we positively welcome enquiries from all sections of the community. If you have ever thought about adopting or becoming a foster carer, why not get in touch?”
With more than 9,000 foster carers or adoptive parents needed nationwide as more children are taken into care, Craig Rigby-Wilson, from New Family Social, said the LGBT community can help to make a difference.
“If just 2% of the community came forward to foster or adopt, this shortfall could be met,” he said.
“Initially, around 2.5% of adoption orders were for placements with same-sex couples. This figure rose to 4.6% last year.
“Many agencies are now actively looking for lesbian and gay applicants – couples as well as single people.”
And Mr Rigby-Wilson revealed that, while some prejudice does remain, experiences of adopting or fostering for LGB&T people have improved in recent years.
“91% of the time members of New Family Social now say they are satisfied with their agency's attitude to their sexuality,” he said.
“However, some problems continue and the organisation regularly receives reports of instances of prejudice or plain awkwardness.”
More than 30 events, including a flagship event in Manchester on Thursday, March 7, will allow LGB&T people to talk to agencies and experienced adopters and foster carers.
Held at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation on Richmond Street and supported by seven agencies, the event aims to dispel the myths and struggles around the process.
A spokesperson from The Lesbian & Gay Foundation said: “1 million LGB&T people in the UK may have the potential to adopt or foster. Yet many people are held back due to lack of knowledge around their legal rights.
“It’s important that LGB&T people know about their legal rights, whether that’s around having a family, or in other areas of their life.
“By having this knowledge people can ensure they aren’t discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity.”
For details of LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week, visit www.lgbtadoptfosterweek.org.uk and for support or advice around legal issues visit www.lgf.org.uk/Your-rights or attend one of their free legal surgeries www.lgf.org.uk/Our-services/advice-surgeries/LGBT-Legal-Advice-Surgery/
The LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week event will be held at The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, 5, Richmond Street, on Thursday, March 7 from 7pm. http://www.lgf.org.uk/whats-on/event-detail/?event_id=1136
Picture courtesy of Guillame Paumier, via WikiCommons, with thanks.