In a recent survey conducted by Compass Fostering, we discovered that only 7% of our foster carers identify as LGBT+. Unfortunately, this statistic is no surprise, given the misinformation and stereotypes about LGBT+ fostering. In fact, the Adoption and Children Act was only amended in 2002 to include LGBT+ foster parents, so it’s understandable why foster carer LGBT+ stats are few and far between.
There is a critical lack of data about LGBT+ foster carers, and Compass are on a mission to find out why that is.
In 2013, YouGov published a LGBT+ fostering stat that 80% of LGBT+ people expect barriers when becoming foster carers. It’s believed this statistic is a direct result of a lack of evidenced engagement from the LGBT+ community with fostering.
However, it’s estimated that if only 1% of the LGBT+ community decided to foster, there would be no more children or young people waiting for a home. So, to see a positive shift in this data, it’s important to listen to how the LGBT+ community feels about fostering, and how fostering agencies like Compass can inspire more to become foster carers.
Why Less LGBT+ Individuals Are Becoming Foster Carers
Harmful myths and stereotypes are a typical reason why more LGBT+ individuals don’t apply to become foster carers.
One of our LGBT+ foster carers, Hayley, believed she could not foster due to her sexuality. This fear was also shared by two of our other LGBT+ foster carers, Mark and Nick, who said “because we are a same-sex couple, we were worried that we wouldn’t be considered for [fostering]”.
These anxieties often stem from the idea that fostering is for more ‘traditional’ heterosexual families, with little accommodation for the LGBT+ community. Some LGBT+ carers have even taken to online spaces to express their concern for giving the child under their care a more ‘distorted’ view of family, believing that living in a LGBT+ household would isolate them further from what is considered ‘normal’. As a result, many LGBT+ individuals considering fostering may feel they have to prove their worth in a way that heterosexual and cis-gender foster carers do not.
An LGBT+ fostering stat by New Family Social has also shown that the idea of the ‘traditional’ family creates pressure for bisexual foster carers to lean more towards presenting as either straight or gay, with non-binary and transgender caregivers feeling the need to appear more ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Ultimately, this has created an even greater gap in data on LGBT+ fostering, with statistics on bisexual and transgender foster carers practically non-existent.
A respondent in New Family Social’s survey stated that LGBT+ fostering is usually ‘female-oriented’, with few agency websites mentioning gay couples. There have been cases where single male foster parents have expressed similar frustrations, which could be the direct result of harmful gender stereotypes, with some people believing that single males can’t foster.
While shifting our perception of what an ‘ideal’ family should look like will begin to break down these norms, there is still more that needs to be done. Currently, there’s a public perception that LGBT+ hate crimes are getting worse, which only contributes to the pre-existing worries potential LGBT+ foster carers may have.
Unfortunately, other LGBT+ fostering statistics provided by New Family Social show that LGBT+ individuals do not feel that fostering agencies are equipped to support LGBT+ foster carers, due to a lack of knowledge and hetero-normative materials.
Is Adoption More Common Than Fostering In The LGBT+ Community?
Adoption is more popular than fostering amongst the LGBT+ community, with current data showing that 1 in 7 adopters in the UK identify as LGBT+. Additionally, the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) reported in 2019 that there was a 12% increase in female same-sex couples turning to surrogacy. While this could be due to a lack of information about fostering for LGBT+ couples when exploring options for welcoming a child into their lives, it could also be due to further concerns regarding homophobia.
Our foster carers, Mark and Nick, previously shared with Compass that one of their primary concerns when becoming foster carers was the reaction they would receive from birth families for being gay and fostering their child. Unfortunately, this stems from the homophobic assumption that if a child is exposed to the LGBT+ community, they will ‘turn’ gay. However, there has been countless research that dispels this myth, with evidence that LGBT+ households can improve emotional well-being and tolerance in a way that heterosexual households might not.
While adoption is a vital process that can offer a child a permanent home, it’s important to note that it can be an increasingly lengthy and difficult process. Data found by New Family Social states that 1 in 3 LGBT+ adopters felt their sexual orientation became a barrier during the family-finding stage, while foster carers such as Mark and Nick had few problems during their fostering journey. The couple also initially considered adoption before deciding to become foster carers, since they could help more children in a shorter time period.
Not only does fostering provide more immediacy than adoption, but it can also allow LGBT+ individuals to welcome a child into their lives where it isn’t possible to use other methods, such as IVF or surrogacy.
LGBT+ Fostering Has Many Benefits
Not only can fostering be an ideal route for anyone who cannot offer a child a permanent home, but an LGBT+ foster carer may also understand the rejection and isolation felt by children and young people in care.
Research has also highlighted that children or young people living with LGBT+ foster carers are better equipped to deal with issues of difference, tolerance, and acceptance. Also, LGBT+ individuals have also been shown to care for a range of children, while heterosexual foster carers are demonstrably pickier, often preferring to care for babies.
LGBT+ foster carers can also be crucial for youth in care to deal with their sexuality. Unfortunately, the fostering industry is oversaturated with children and young people in care who are LGBT+. Key LGBT+ fostering statistics have shown that these children are placed in care due to their sexuality. As a result, they need to be with foster carers who understand their situation and can provide them with a stable environment while they grow to embrace who they are.
Our foster carers, Mark and Nick, experienced this with their foster son Luke, who struggled with his own LGBT+ identity, which the couple supported him with in a way that a heterosexual carer may not have been equipped to.
LGBT+ foster carers can also help agencies make a step in the right direction in terms of materials, literature and training programmes, by providing feedback on how to make them more inclusive for the LGBT+ community. Through working together to improve this, more LGBT+ individuals can become aware of fostering and its benefits, helping transform LGBT+ fostering statistics and providing more children and young people with the chance to find a loving home.
In 2022, there were 82,000 children in care, with the number of fostering applications dropping by over 2000, even though 70% of looked after children are currently residing with foster families. If just 1% of the LGBT+ community decided to foster, this number would be non-existent.
Each year, LGBT+ fostering statistics show that more children are being placed with LGBT+ foster carers. At Compass, we understand that our foster carers come from various backgrounds and life experiences, and we continue to remain proud of our diverse community.
If you believe you could provide a safe and caring environment for young people who need it, please contact us to learn more about foster care. Our welcoming team of professionals will be happy to take you through any questions you may have.