A GAY couple have spoken of how they had to overcome the barriers they faced after deciding to become foster parents.

Antony and Richard Jones, from Braintree, first became foster carers in 2019.

The couple are now long-term carers to a 15-year-old, who will stay with them until the age of 18 or until they can live independently.

Antony, 32, said: “As a couple, fostering was something we had discussed many times as my niece and nephew went into care for several years after a family breakdown, and they are now living under special guardianship with my mother.

“After seeing the help they had and how they were looked after so well in foster care, we felt that once we were in a position to do so, we wanted to be able to do the same for other children and youngsters who need it.

"When we decided we were serious about applying, we moved out of our one-bed flat and into a house, so we’d have the extra rooms to be able to provide somewhere safe to live for a child.”

Almost 70 per cent of people from the East of England are unaware that people from the LGBT community can foster.

Richard, 38, and Antony have cared for a number of children after being approved to foster, including a young person with additional learning needs.

They are now urging other LGBT people to consider fostering.

Braintree and Witham Times:

  • Antony and Richard Jones from Braintree 

Antony is now a full-time foster carer with Five Rivers Child Care, while Richard continues to work as a store manager for a large supermarket chain.

Having previously worked as an auxiliary nurse and spending more than 13 years in the health sector, Antony wanted to extend that care to help young people and children in need.

Antony said: “No one should be discouraged from fostering because of their sexuality.

"We did actually face some uncomfortable barriers when we told people we knew that we had decided to apply to foster and we were taken aback by the lack of understanding surrounding whether same sex couples can foster.

"However, we’re thankful that those close to us have been very supportive of our decision.

"For us, it’s about educating people and being up front about it, to try and reduce those misconceptions.

"I’d urge anyone considering fostering to not be put off and to just go for it.

“Five Rivers Child Care was actually the second fostering provider we applied with.

"We decided to pull out of the process first time around back in 2018 because of the lack of support and understanding we received during our application.

"It took a bit of courage, but we eventually decided to apply again with Five Rivers, and the instant support we received put us at ease immediately, so we’re really pleased we persevered.”

Elizabeth Fleet, of Five Rivers Child Care, said: “There is a desperate need for more people to consider fostering as the number of children and young people in care in Essex and across the Home Counties continues to rise.

"We are receiving constant requests for foster carers from local authorities and we want to dispel any myths surrounding recruitment across the industry from the LGBT+ community.

“It’s so important to have a diverse range of foster carers to reflect the children and young people entering the care system. We currently have some amazing and inspiring LGBT+ carers who are providing safe and loving homes to those in need and we would like to encourage anyone who would like to do the same, to give us a call.”

For more information on becoming a foster carer, contact Five Rivers Child Care on 0345 266 0272 or visit five-rivers.org/lgbt-fostering.