02 September 2019
Foster parents from the LGBT+ community in Jersey are speaking out this week in the run-up to Channel Islands Pride this weekend.
The Government of Jersey has launched a new campaign to raise awareness and dispel any myths around who can foster a child.
Children’s Minister, Senator Sam Mézec, said: “Fostering is open to everyone who can offer a child the love and care they deserve, help them to thrive, and meet their needs. Ahead of Channel Islands Pride this weekend, we feel it is important to share the experiences from LGBT+ foster carers.
“Thank you to Debbie and Dee Sallows-Byrne for speaking to the Government of Jersey about their experience of fostering. LGBT+ foster carers and adopters (whether single or in relationships) can change children’s and young people’s lives.
It doesn't matter what your family looks like. If you can provide a loving home for children who need it, then you can be considered for fostering. As Minister for Children, I am proposing that more support is given to foster carers, both financial and with training and advice.”
Same-sex married couple Debbie and Dee Sallows-Byrne, of St Helier, who received an award at the Foster Carers' Award Ceremony earlier this year, have spoken about their rewarding experiences of fostering children in Jersey as part of a social media campaign.
“It is the best feeling in the world when a child’s face lights up when you collect them, or they rest in your arms at night feeling safe. This is why we became foster parents.
“We don’t feel any different being same-sex foster parents. Nobody ever mentions it and we have huge support from our friends, family or professionals. What’s important is that you’re patient, compassionate and able to provide a safe, nurturing, supportive environment for a child or young person anytime they need it.”
Debbie and Dee’s story can be viewed on YouTube.
The Fostering and Adoption team will be attending Channel Islands Pride, this Saturday 7 September, and will have a pop-up event for islanders to find out more details.
Another same-sex couple who fostered and adopted a child in Jersey have also shared their anonymous story as part of this campaign.
Here is their story:
“We adopted our child a few years ago, and, as a same-sex couple on this nine-by-five-mile rock, we are part of a small, yet growing minority of same-sex families who have either adopted or fostered a child.
“We were told that we had been matched with a boy about 15 months after we started the adoption process, and once we had been approved to adopt him, we went to meet him for the first time two days later. Both our hearts melted when we saw him
“Exactly one week later, he moved in and we soon became the expert in our child. Fostering and Adoption, Jersey, were excellent in preparing us for our son’s arrival, and they provided us with an array of information about our child and his background – anything they knew, we knew. We had frequent visits from our son’s social worker, our social worker, a court-appointed social worker, health workers, and occasional meetings from the independent Looked After Child reviewer. But these never felt intrusive.
“In an island where closed minds unfortunately do not come with closed mouths, we are very aware of what some people’s views are on alternative families, however, fortunately, we have never come across anyone with anything negative to say about our family – and, most of the time, praise and compliments came from the most unlikely of people. We are frequently told how selfless we are and how much we are admired, but we do not see it that way, we are just two people who want to give a child the best possible start in life whilst hoping he will become part of our legacy; someone who will remember and miss us when we’ve gone.
“The Fostering and Adoption team were magnificent in their support and ongoing help; we could not have hoped for a better social worker throughout the adoption process.
Our little boy brings so much joy, not only to us but others too – strangers will regularly come up to us and say that we have the happiest child in Jersey, and that’s when we know we have done at least one thing right in our lives.
“What the future brings, we do not know – but, for the moment, we remain in awe of our little man’s resilience, imagination, and confidence – he is light years away from that anxious and lost soul we first met way back when.
“It has been tough. It will get tougher. But come storm or shine, and as our son says, best friends are family and family sticks together.”