Mark is a self-employed service engineer working in the car audio industry, and Kevin is a Client Services Payroll Manager for a large Estate Agent and Estate management firm. They have been together for over 11 years since September 2004, and have fostered four children through Greater London Fostering (GLF)
What attracted you to fostering?
We’re both good with children and felt we had the time and space to offer a loving home to kids that need it. There are so many children out there that need a loving home and we are just doing our bit to make that happen.
Did you ever consider adoption?
We did, although we had quite a few obstacles put in our way and were discouraged by the social worker in our local authority as it would apparently cost more time and money to progress our application. We applied for the fostering about 2-3 years after this.
How did you go about being foster parents? Who did you approach?
Mark did a search on Google and GLF popped up on the search results. We made an initial inquiry and things progressed from there. Someone from GLF came to our home to meet us and fill in the initial application form. After this we attended a 3 day training course called Skills to Foster which taught us about the highs and lows of fostering.
Were there any specific criteria you had to fulfil to become foster parents?
Yes, you have to be in a position to provide the support a child needs so we had to have space in our home, be financially stable, have a good support network of friends and family around us and get through all the checks made. The social worker fills out a massive form that covers the details of your life from birth and then forms the basis of the application process. This is used by the fostering panel when they make their decision. The experiences we have had in our lives helped with our application as it meant we could use those experiences to relate to the children we may look after.
What checks were made on you to ensure that you were suitable foster parents?
We had a number of interviews and discussions with an independent social worker to go through our backgrounds. The checks included criminal records, finances, reference from previous relationship, references from friends, employers and our landlord.
As two gay men, did you encounter any negative reaction either during, or after, the fostering process?
We haven’t had any negative reactions at all with the fostering. Everything has been really positive and the four children we have looked after so far had no issues with our sexuality at all.
Who have you fostered? Do you still keep in touch with the children you have fostered?
So far we have fostered four children, all boys aged 8, 9, 11 and 15.
One is currently living with us, we keep in touch with two others, one we see regularly and the other we get a message from every now and then.
What would you say is the greatest challenge being foster parents?
Having to learn how to be a professional parent. We have had to re-educate ourselves about looking after children. We have been through a lot of training and also experience of looking after other children, but none of that can prepare you properly for the first day a child arrives on your doorstep. The basics are the same but there are a lot of rules around what you can and cannot do and it can take a while to get used to it. Something you would do for your own child without thinking, you cannot do for a looked after child without permission from somewhere else. You don’t always know much about the child that is coming to live with you so you have to try to make them comfortable at first and then find out more about them as time progresses.
And what would you say gives you the greatest satisfaction being foster parents?
Seeing the change in the child. We try to encourage the children to develop their skills to become good, well-mannered individuals who are able to do the basic things they’ll need in life such as cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, keeping active both physically and socially. As well as this we try to develop strategies with the children to help them manage their issues such as anger or anxiety. It’s always good to see when they start using the skills we have taught them independently and we know we are on the right track. We have developed good relationships with all the children as we are very honest and open with them.
For more information go to Greater London Fostering