At Compass, our foster carers come from a variety of different backgrounds and life experiences. We’re proud of our wonderfully diverse community, and pride ourselves on seeing the potential – not perfection – in all our foster carers and staff.
This Pride Month, we’re taking time to celebrate our wonderful LGBTQIA+ community at Compass. We want to feature the stories and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ members of our community, including the work our people have been doing to make Compass a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.
What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?
Before we continue, we want to establish what LGBTQIA+ stands for. When referring to minority groups, at Compass, we feel the language we use should be as inclusive as possible to ensure everyone’s experiences are accounted for and represented.
The acronym LGBT+ (standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people) was originally introduced as a more acceptable and inclusive way to describe individuals who were previously referred to as the ‘gay community.’ The acronym has since expanded to LGBTQIA+ to include further sexual orientations and gender identities, but what does the Q, I and A stand for in LGBTQIA+?
The recent addition of the letter Q refers to Queer or Questioning. Queer as an identity refers to anyone who exists outside of mainstream ideas on sexuality and identity. People who identity as queer do not consider themselves straight and may be questioning their sexuality or gender identity.
The letter I in LGBTQIA+ represents people who are Intersex, an umbrella term describing people who are born with reproductive or sexual anatomy, genitals or chromosomes that don’t fit within the social and medical binaries of male or female.
Finally, the letter A stands for Asexual. People who are asexual typically don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone and don’t want to pursue sexual relationships with other people. This does not mean they don’t experience sexual desire or romantic, emotional, or platonic attraction.
Our LGBTQIA+ Foster Carers
Unfortunately, 8 in 10 LGBTQIA+ people believe they will face barriers when applying to become a foster carer. There are still many harmful stigmas surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community, and these can often deter people from applying to become foster carers.
Hayley, one of our foster carers from the North, spoke to us about her experiences as an LGBTQIA+ person living in the UK.
‘It takes a lot to open up about my sexuality. People sometimes don’t realise that I am a lesbian, so the reaction is often “really? I didn’t know,” or, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Sometimes, people just turn and walk away. But other people couldn’t care less about my sexuality and are just there for me.’
In the beginning, Hayley was concerned about how her sexuality would impact her experience as a foster carer.
‘I didn’t think I would be able to foster. But anything and everything is possible and sexuality should never be an issue. I’m here for the kids at the end of the day and try my best to give them a better life and understanding of the world.’
Like Hayley, Mark and Nick – two of our foster carers from Bradford – were also concerned as to how their sexuality might affect their fostering journey. As a gay couple, Mark and Nick explored all the options when it came to introducing children into their lives.
‘Surrogacy, as well as adoption, were on our list of possibilities. But there were children in our country who needed a loving home, and we ultimately came to the conclusion of fostering.
Because we are a same-sex couple, we were worried that we wouldn’t be considered for child placement. Sitting and waiting for so long was the most challenging part of our journey. But, since we started foster care, our lives have seen radical transformations.’
At Compass, we know that sexual orientation and gender identity have no bearing on a person’s ability to make a brilliant foster carer. All our foster carers share our vision and are dedicated to improving the outcomes of all the children and young people in our care.
As Mark and Nick told us, although ‘becoming a foster parent is not an easy choice’, what makes fostering worthwhile is being able to ‘provide the children new and exciting experiences’ that they would otherwise have missed out on.
Celebrating and Supporting our LGBTQIA+ Youth
As well as our foster carers, we’re aware that our children also come from a range of backgrounds and experiences.
We work hard to cultivate an inclusive, welcoming, and supportive environment within which our children and young people can explore their identities. We know our staff and foster carers share this same passion for helping our children and young people thrive.
Mark, one of our brilliant Advanced Practitioners with Compass, shared with us some of the brilliant work that he and his colleagues have been doing to support our LGBTQIA+ young people.
To promote inclusivity and feature the voices of our children, Mark and the staff at our Newton Aycliffe office organised an activity day for the foster children in their region. Their children and young people were invited into the office to partake in a self-expression activity, whereby they traced their hands and decorated each tracing in a way they felt reflected themselves.
Mark said the children were told: ‘This is your hand. Through your hand, you can express how you feel about yourself. Tell the world whatever you want – if you’re creative, if you’ve got struggles, any wishes or feelings, anything.’
One of their young people connected with this activity in an especially significant manner. Mark said that at first, ‘they went really quiet, and really deep into thought.’
‘When we asked what they were thinking, they didn’t really say much. But then, they started painting colours on each of the fingers of their hand tracing. At the end, they wrote LGBTQ+ on the hand, and put their head down.
We asked them if that was how they wanted to express themselves, and they just nodded. The young person then explained that they felt they were transgender, and that they wanted to be a boy but didn’t have the confidence to tell anybody beforehand.’
Following this conversation and inspired by the trust this young person had placed in them, Mark and his fellow team began looking at other ways to make their office more child friendly. With the help of some fresh paint and a little DIY-work, Mark and the team at Newton Aycliffe transformed one of their rooms into a child-friendly space.
This child-friendly space now has a new family tree for the children to display their artwork on, alongside several notice boards ready to celebrate their young people’s achievements and special moments.
‘Every child that comes into the office is encouraged to draw round their hands when they come in and become part of the Compass family tree. We don’t want to put names or faces on the hands. It’s just for the children to know which hand is theirs. As they grow, they’ll be able to come back and reflect on it.
We also made sure that all the headings on our notice boards are LGBT+ flag colours, as requested by the young person who came out to us. We just really want to make it a safe environment for our children to express themselves.’
We’re incredibly proud of the work that Mark and his colleagues at our Newton Aycliffe office have been doing to promote inclusivity and support our children in their development. We can’t wait to see what they do next!
If you’re a foster carer and want to know more about LGBTQIA+ fostering and supporting your LGBTQIA+ youth in foster care, check out our list of resources below!
- A Guide to Supporting LGBTQIA+ Youth in Foster Care
- 10 Things to Say When Your Child Comes Out to You
- Can I foster if I’m LGBT+?
- How to Help Transgender Children
- 6 Books to Help You Talk to Your Kids About Gender Identity
- 5 Books to Help You Talk To Your Kids About Being LGBTQIA+
Alternatively, if you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, you can get in touch with us here.