As a single, gay man I believed during my late teens and early twenties that having a family of my own would never happen. When I was 16 my first niece was born and I loved helping my sister look after her. One day when we were playing in the park I heard someone comment saying “isn’t it a shame, he’d make such an amazing Dad!” I know they meant no harm, however it did upset me.
I am now an uncle to four and a great uncle to the most amazing little girl. I’ve always loved children and want to play an important part in their lives.
As I continued to work hard at my job in the travel industry, I enjoyed many great trips overseas, made great friends and eventually was promoted to Operations Manager. I felt I was doing great, living a good life and free to do what I wanted, however, deep down something was still missing. A few of my friends had successfully adopted children and more recently one of my gay friends adopted siblings as a single parent.
I was at their house when the 7-year-old boy asked ‘what is your purpose in life?’’ I was surprised by the question and also found myself stumbling for an answer. I replied with: ‘what a great question, you’ll have to give me some time to think of an answer’. I left that evening with the burning question spinning around in my head.
This was the start of my fostering journey. I was 39 and rapidly speeding towards 40 when one day at work I heard a radio advert for By the Bridge. A West Midlands voice I recognised. It was actress Julie Walters, a lady I absolutely love. My attention was hooked immediately and I was keen to investigate what By the Bridge had to offer. I checked their website and was impressed straight away with the detailed information and the whole therapeutic approach to fostering. I also liked the training on offer and it made me feel that fostering could offer me a meaningful career.
I went to an information evening feeling completely daunted being a single, gay man and thought this will either terrify or inspire me. Luckily, I came away feeling empowered and ready to take on the next step of the process. I did feel anxious being a single gay man - would they be understanding of my situation or would I feel judged and isolated?
Thankfully, I didn’t need to worry at all. I attended a few induction/training days along with many Social Worker visits and after 6 months I was approved as a full-time Foster Parent. I remember being so excited that I planned a party in my garden to celebrate with my family and friends.
I now have a wonderful teenage boy who has lived with me for almost 3 years since the start. At times it has been tough but the training and support from By the Bridge has helped me manage to overcome many things. Like any parent and child relationship there are ‘storms’ but they pass and we sail into much calmer seas. You do need a good supportive network around you who understand fostering and some of the challenges it may bring though.
On a final note, please do not let your sexuality put you off, you have the strength and life skills to succeed and I’m so glad I decided to become a Foster Parent. It’s one of the most rewarding and challenging things you can do and I hope to continue my role with By the Bridge for many more years to come. Helping children and young teenagers who’ve experienced trauma and difficult times provides me with the sense of purpose I was always looking for.
Could you become a Foster Parent and change a young person's life? Get in Touch with By the Bridge today!