Fostering is perhaps one of the toughest challenges a parent can undertake – but speak to foster parents themselves, and many will tell you it is also one of the most rewarding.

Unlike adoption, fostering is usually a temporary solution and rather than have full parental responsibility, foster parents normally share decision-making with the local authority, or the child’s birth parents.

Legally, the Adoption of Children Act, passed in 1926, set the first legal precedent for fostering and adoption in Britain.

But it was not until 2005, almost 80 years later, that same-sex couples were legally allowed to foster or adopt children.

As part of LGBTQ+ History Month, same-sex couples are being encouraged to consider fostering as a way of growing or starting a family and for both parents and children, the experience can be enriching and life changing.

Colchester-based Stephen and Colin, who have two adopted children, decided to foster after Stephen was offered voluntary redundancy during the pandemic.

Although Stephen’s career in the travel industry had been put on hold, it proved to herald a new beginning.

Rather than spend hours on the road, or at the office, he was able to fully commit all his time to his family.

He said: “I’d been working in management in the travel and tourism industry for 11 years, working long hours and travelling a lot, but when the world stopped due to Covid-19, my company offered me redundancy.

“Fostering has always been something we’ve been passionate about because we want to help young people."

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“When we adopted our two children it reinforced that we were ready to foster, so when the redundancy was offered, we knew it was the right time and meant I could have a new start and get back time with my family.”

Foster carers are often from all walks of life, they can be single, retired, or same-sex, and Essex County Council is urging more people to consider fostering.

A key reason behind this is the fact the number of children needing foster parents increased by more than 40 percent during the pandemic according to Barnardo’s, a charity  which cares for vulnerable children.

They can come from a range of situations but all need support in a time of crisis.

“Fostering gives you the opportunity to show your foster children that even though they have been through some horrendous things, life doesn’t have to be like that,” Stephen said.

“They can change their path with your support. We only hope that our foster children go on and recreate the family environment they’ve experienced in our home.”

Having recently fostered a young person who was on an emergency placement with them, Stephen said it is often the children from the most troubled backgrounds where foster parents can help the most.

“One young person who came to us on an emergency placement recently said that they felt secure and safe for the first time in a long time,” he said.

“Hearing that melts my heart; it shows that we are doing good, and we’ve helped that young person in a small way.”

Stephen and Colin’s experience has prompted them to encourage other members of the LGBTQ+ community to contact Essex County Council if they feel fostering is a potential route for them.

The phone line is 0800 801 530 or, alternatively, you can visit