My partner Ross and I have looked after 11 children since starting fostering in 2014 and currently care for two teenagers. If you’d told me I would meet the man of my dreams and have a family a few years ago I would not have believed you. Fostering has completely, absolutely changed my life.
We met on the internet 13 years ago. Ross was going on five dates a week hoping to bag a man and I was Mr Tuesday, he never got to Wednesday! I knew from the minute we met we were meant to be and we’d get married - we’re very similar and very driven and with all the others there just wasn’t that feeling. We became civil partners on 12.12.12 after being together six years.
Ross and I didn’t have much in the beginning but we are very resourceful and put our heads together to get where we are. I now own an online healthcare business and Ross is a business advisor. Some people might have ideas about foster carers staying at home but we are a normal working family, and at 37 and 34 years old we are the youngest foster carers in Durham.
My parents fostered for 10 years and I saw what an impact and difference you can have on a child’s life. There are so many positives. It is really nice being there for somebody and to know that they rely on you and need you there when you wake up in the morning.
Fostering has meant learning more about myself than I’ve learnt ever before. I struggled with mental health problems previously and thought it would stop me from fostering. But it’s a massive positive as I understand if others are going through a hard time; I know what it is like to come out the other side from a bad place. I’ve got through it and I don’t look back, I have children to think about now.
In four years we have looked after many children from four to 17 years of age. Three years ago we got a call at 3am about an emergency placement and the teenager is still living with us. We are very open about children coming to stay with us, we don’t think you should get a catalogue to pick them; if we think we can make a difference we will definitely give it a try. We’ve had good success stories and there have always been positives at the end.
We are two men but that has not bothered the kids one bit. What you see is what you get with us. We talk for Britain and we’re relatable. We are open-minded and talk openly about anything, which helps because foster children come from such diverse backgrounds and families. We have great support around us from all walks of life, nurses, teachers, police officers – all with great knowledge we can tap into. Our house is constantly full of people but regardless of whether you’ve had a good or bad day, we turn the TV off, listen and help work out how to deal with each other’s problems. Everyone fosters each other in this house.
The best part of fostering is seeing the kids improve. One of the children had health problems including asthma and skin problems and now he rarely uses inhalers and is on the football team. Another kid came home from school with 100% attendance rate when they previously had 9%. The big moments and memories are great, like when we all windsurf, jet-ski and scuba dive on holiday. But the smaller ones are priceless, like when we turned round in a taxi one day to see two children snuggled into each other.
Foster carers come from all walks of life - it is not the old grandma foster carer strolling round the house like Miss Hannigan, it is different nowadays. For LGBT Fostering and Adoption Week 2018, I would encourage others to give fostering a go and explore the possibility of having a family. It’s not the most conventional way in the world but if you have any time to spare, you can spend it on a child who needs you and you can have a huge impact on their future.
What is great for the LGBT community is that fostering is not restricted – it doesn’t matter if you have partner or if you are single – you can make a difference. Fostering makes you feel really proud and gives you self-worth and purpose, and to have that is the meaning of life.
CoramBAAF is an independent membership organisation for foster carers and adopters, professionals and anyone else working with or looking after children in or from care. It supports Futures for Children fostering agency, who Lee and Ross foster with.