Renee and her partner Jacqueline have been fostering for nearly 10 years.
I originally studied paediatric nursing, but I began to feel unfulfilled in what I was doing and didn't finish my training. My partner Jacqueline, who had been teaching for 10 years, expressed an interest in doing something for the wider community and we both agreed that we could do more. I talked it through with Jacqueline, who is adopted, and we decided to investigate fostering.
We spent a couple of months researching it: reading books, speaking to people, and sussing out how our families would feel – they play a part in our everyday life so we wanted to make sure we had their support. Everyone was very positive. Three years ago we made initial contact with a couple of local authorities and agencies and went through some interviews – in the end we went with an agency.
The process took about nine months in total, which we were happy with. We were very clear to the agency - we would take disabled children, we would take sibling groups, we would take children from ethnic minorities, different cultural and religious backgrounds. We were quite open but had a set age range which was 0-10 years – because that’s where all our experience was, both professionally and personally, and that was our comfort zone. What I loved was that there was no pressure – our agency has always been so supportive.
In the end, our first placement ended up being three Nigerian Muslim children, so we had to change everything, down to the way we cook - but we absolutely loved it! As a foster carer you learn so much more about the wider world, the children and about yourself. That’s one thing that I absolutely love about fostering – that with every placement, I learn something new.
We’re a very touchy-feely, loving couple but we don’t force that onto a child. We got engaged during one placement and we came home and the children asked what we did that night. We told them and they just said, ‘Oh that’s nice’! Because we don’t make a big deal out of it (we don’t sit down and explain that we’re gay) and we have a copy of some children’s books about different families in the house – it feels more organic. The books we have show that some people have a black mummy and a white daddy, some people live with their grandparents, and some people have two mummies - and I think the children see that it’s not a big deal. We’ve never had children coming home from school saying they’ve been bullied about living with two women.
My advice to anyone thinking about fostering is: be enthusiastic; don’t expect anything; and expect everything! Don’t label them as a foster child – it doesn’t have to be a defining factor in a child’s life. And most of all: be open to all the new experiences that these children will bring to you!