What’s it like to be in a same-sex couple and decide to foster an 11-year-old boy? As part of our celebration of Pride Month, we find out.
Stephen White, 34, an area manager and his husband Wayne, 30, a part-time care worker from Warwickshire became foster carers to Thomas six months ago and it was the best decision of their life.
Stephen says: ‘The engines fired up and Thomas grabbed onto both our hands, his face crumpled up in nerves having never been on a plane before.
I looked across at Wayne steadily stroking Thomas’s arm and smiled, knowing we were both feeling that parental urge to protect for the very first time.
‘It’s OK,’ I reassured him. ‘We’re not going to fall out of the sky, I promise.’
The wheels lifted off the tarmac and as soon as we were in the air, the nerves dissipated, his brow smoothed out and his grin widened with excitement.
It was our first holiday together as a family and it was a joy to simply watch him soak up every moment, whether he was floating on a lilo in the pool or dancing to a Bob Marley track at the local Cypriot restaurant.
He was a pleasure; everything was a pleasure.
Our dream of becoming foster carers had been realised after a tough year and a half of training and preparation and having Thomas with us felt so right.
Wayne and I had both grown up in large families where relatives had fostered or adopted and we saw for ourselves how it could change a person’s life for the better.
After being together nine years and marrying in 2015, fostering a child became the clear next step for us. We had a loving, stable home and there were so many vulnerable children out there, unseen, uncared for, with nowhere to go. It just made sense.
Applying to become foster parents as a same sex couple did worry us. How would other people perceive us? Would we come across prejudice or would people think us less able? But the worries were all in our heads and no one throughout the entire process with Barnardo’s showed any concern or prejudice.
We were approved for fostering last December and within a matter of weeks were matched with 11 year-old Thomas. We were wracked with nerves before going to meet him and his then foster carers. What if he didn’t like us?
Again, our worries were unfounded.
The carers made us welcome and after tucking into pizza, Thomas took us into his room to show us his toys, while we handed him a photo book that included pictures of our home, our large family of over 50 cousins, our wedding day, our cat and his bedroom, pointing out the Marvel bedspread and bare blue walls which were waiting for him to pin his posters on.
After a few more visits, the day came for Thomas to move in. He was pale and scared, the transition clearly daunting.
It took a couple of weeks for him to settle and at night-times especially he’d feel upset, understandably missing the family and friends he’d left behind, and we’d encourage him to keep in touch by writing them letters.
But, gradually, in time, there was a change in him. He started laughing and smiling more and sang in the car on the way to school. He even stopped picking at his fingers, an anxious habit he’d picked up over the years.
Now he’s such a happy kid, loving his football, cubs and trampolining and doing really well at school.
We thought fostering would be a huge, dramatic change that would turn our lives upside down but it isn’t like that at all. It’s as if Thomas was always meant to be here. As a family, we just fit.’
Wayne says: ‘It’s so nice having someone to wake up to everyday and to watch grow as a person. Mornings are my favourite time of the day as we have such a laugh in the car on the way to school. We love listening to the radio and playing the competitions and he’s always asking loads of questions. Having Thomas has completely changed our lives for the better.’