Hemel Hempstead couple take pride in fostering

A couple share their experience of fostering ahead of LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering Week (2-8 March)

Members of the LGBT+ community are being asked to consider fostering or adopting a child in Hertfordshire.

Ray Shaughnessy and Pete Shuttleworth

Ray Shaughnessy and Pete Shuttleworth

Pete Shuttleworth and his partner Ray Shaughnessy, from Hemel Hempstead, have fostered children for about nine years, offering mainly respite care, and have not found any barriers to fostering as a gay couple.

Hertfordshire County Council is hoping to dispel the misconceptions that LGBT+ people cannot adopt or foster, the council will consider applications from anyone able to offer a child a loving and secure home.

Pete said: “Fostering is quite tough but it’s also rewarding. What amazes me is the children we looked after. All of them didn’t care at all that we were gay.

"They just wanted to know what room was theirs, what they were having for dinner or whether they could see a friend.

"We didn’t experience any barriers because of our sexuality in fact we found the approach of county and the children in our care very positive.

“Hertfordshire County Council has been great. The first time we walked into one of its events and showed an interest, we didn’t know what to expect but we were made to feel very welcome.”

There are approximately 950 children and young people in care in Hertfordshire and many of these children need the love and support of a foster family.

Similarly, there are a number of children who need permanent homes through adoption.

The couple said that fostering children has opened up a side of life they had not experienced.

Pete said: “It has given us a different perspective on life because neither of us had children.

"It also gives you an insight into what your colleagues and friends face every day, from taking the children to football training, to GP appointments and picking them up from detentions. We didn’t really appreciate it before.”

To become a foster carer in Hertfordshire, you have to be over 21 years old, and have at least one spare room in your home.

There are many different types of fostering and foster carers can choose what is right for them and their family.

Pete believes that while there are challenges to fostering, the rewards are great.

He said: “One of the boys we fostered is now 21 and we still have a relationship with him. That is quite something. Apart from his auntie, he said we are the most important people to him in his life.

“At the time you hope that what you are doing is the right thing but it’s only afterwards that you really know. After the event, we know that we did good.”

LGBT+ Adoption and Fostering Week, which is focused this year on the theme Why Not You?, is organised by New Family Social, a charity that supports LGBT+ adopters and foster carers across the UK.

Councillor Teresa Heritage, deputy leader of Hertfordshire County Council and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “We welcome applications from anyone who can provide a loving, nurturing and secure environment for children to grow and thrive.

“As a local authority, we encourage people from all backgrounds and communities to foster or adopt with us and we are inviting our local LGBT+ community to come and speak to us about the options available.”

For more information visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/adoption.