Foster carers needed for LGBT youth

// 17 December 2008

The Albert Kennedy Trust is in need of women foster carers, according to a profile by Julie Bindel in today’s Guardian:

When she was 16 and, in her own words, “a real mess”, Alex was given a placement at the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), which offers safe accommodation to young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people. Now 18, she says that her life has “almost completely turned around”.

Alex, who is estranged from her parents and siblings, says: “I no longer feel alone in the world. I now see my carer and her partner as my family, and my carer’s parents consider me their granddaughter.

“Living there gave me a sense of what life should and could be like. It was amazing that I could be myself and not hide who I was. I was glad I was living with a female carer. It was much easier to talk about certain things with another lesbian.”

To date, hundreds of lesbian and gay young people aged 16 to 25 have been given a second chance at life after being matched with an AKT carer and offered supported accommodation in their home, but fewer than 30% of them have been cared for by women. At present, there is not one female carer on the books in London, and only three in Manchester.

The AKT has its 20th anniversary next year. From a press release they just issued:

Albert Kennedy Trust Chief Executive, Tim Sigsworth, commented: “Rejection and ejection from home are the harsh reality for many vulnerable lesbian and gay teens, and in fact the demand for our services is growing year on year. That’s why we need to ensure we’re able to help every young person who needs our vital services.

“Despite the fact that we live in supposedly more accepting and equal times for LGBT people, young people are still being rejected by parents, families and carers – often finding themselves living in an abusive or hostile environment or forced out of home and onto friends’ sofas or the streets. At present we cannot meet the demand for carer households and our service is bursting at the seams – we need money, volunteers and support to build the capacity we need to help all those young people who turn to us.

“Adolescence is a difficult time – and loneliness and depression are all too common. For some LGBT young people life is even more difficult; we know that almost two-thirds of lesbian and gay young people have been bullied and many cannot be themselves at school. If they feel unable to be themselves at home either – or if coming out to parents or carers leads to rejection, this can lead to failure to achieve at school, homelessness, emotional and mental health issues and long-term risks to their life chances.”

Comments From You

Naomi // Posted 19 December 2008 at 1:22 pm

What a shame – less than 30% are being cared for by women.

They may be getting a new lease of life etc., but they’re not getting the real thing – the care of a woman!

OK call me paranoid, but that’s how it feels to me reading that article.

I think that if there are lots of men wanting to care for LGBT kids then that is great. And if there aren’t so many women doing it, well, maybe they thought about it but decided to be doctors or lawyers instead.

How unusual is it for only 30% of a given set of foster kids to be cared for by MEN, I wonder? Would it be worthy of note?

Jess McCabe // Posted 19 December 2008 at 1:52 pm

Naomi – I think the point isn’t about kids missing out on “the care of a woman”, but about young lesbians and bisexual girls/women being able to be fostered by someone who understands that experience.

Kirsty // Posted 21 December 2008 at 8:32 pm

But on the other hand, must we always be raised by someone who understands our experiences? I’m a queer woman raised by the straightest set of parents/various-other-relatives one could ever meet, but I don’t feel I’ve necessarily suffered for it. I think that, if a young person is thrown out by their parents/guardians for their sexual orientation, it’s more important that they’re cared for by someone who accepts their sexuality and loves them rather than someone who necessarily shares their gender/sexuality.

Junkyard Angel // Posted 27 December 2008 at 9:48 pm

The thing I find so strange about this is that Julie Bindel is well known for her outspoken beliefs against transsexual people, such as holding that we should not receive medical reassignment treatment and so forth.

Now she is arguing that we should have caring foster parents. Presumably so long as they refuse to acknowledge the child’s preferred gender and prevent them from seeking medical reassignment treatment?

Anne // Posted 30 December 2008 at 12:42 pm

Finding foster carers desparately needed for children of all backgrounds, race and sexuality. More gay and lesbian single/couples are needed to broaden the best matching for children and foster families.

Dan // Posted 1 February 2009 at 9:15 pm

I don’t think it’s inconsistent, Junkyard Angel: the remit of the AKT is to provide support for LGBT children, as is accurately recorded. However, JB’s own take on it is that “hundreds of lesbian and gay young people aged 16 to 25 have been given a second chance at life after being matched with an AKT carer” – that is, the young transgender and indeed bisexual people helped or not helped by the AKT are not an element of AKT’s remit that is of concern to her.

Julie Bindel has elsewhere stated that she would rather that the LGBT alliance did not exist, and that indeed the letters at the further end could be equated with cat-fanciers (which might be zoophiles or pet-owners; it’s unclear in the context) and devil-worshippers. What the AKT does with bi or trans youths is therefore, and consistently, is not of interest to her.

Annette // Posted 3 February 2009 at 10:55 pm

No matter what the sexuality of young people, there is a huge need for foster carers of all persuasions. Gay carers can care for straight young people and straight carers can care for gay young people. Its about the carers understanding of all of the issues, sexuality being one of these.


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