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Dublin: 16°C Thursday 23 September 2021

Gay couple encourage other members of the LGBT community to consider fostering children

There are more than 6,000 children in state care in Ireland.

Couple Bonga (34) and Dean (41)
Couple Bonga (34) and Dean (41)
Image: Conor McCrave

A GAY COUPLE who have been fostering two children for more than a decade have called on other members of the LGBT+ community to consider taking on a fostering role and help support some of the 6,000 children in State care in Ireland. 

Dean O’Carroll and his husband Bonga Dlamini O’Carroll have two boys who were placed in foster care when they were just one and three years old. 

Dean has been fostering them for 13 years now while Bonga joined the family in 2015 after the pair met, and later married. 

There are currently more than 6,000 children in this situation who rely on foster carers across the country to look after and support them. 

Dean and Bonga explained that some of their LGBT+ friends have expressed an interest in fostering but worry about a perceived stigma that might be associated with it. 

They said it hasn’t been something they have experienced in their family. 

“Sometimes when people meet you for the first time, they might be curious and ask questions like ‘Oh you’re a gay couple and you are fostering, what’s that like?’ but it’s more curiosity than anything, rather than judging or anything like that,” Bonga said. 

“Anyone can foster, whether you’re single, whether you’re gay, whether you’re straight. It just depends on your personality and if you are able to actually give the love and provide a house and a family for the children,” he added. 

At present there are around 4,500 foster carers in Ireland, with the Child and Family Agency, Tusla actively trying to increase that number over the coming months. 

Dean said the hesitancy towards fostering among his gay friends comes from a lack of knowledge and added that a foster carer’s sexuality doesn’t matter when a child needs a safe home. 

“The lack of knowledge creates fears and people would have fears about whether they would be acceptable as a foster parent. But if you take the word fostering out of it, you just have to be able to be a parent. 

“I’ve been asked what’s the most difficult part of parenting and it’s the parenting itself. Anything that would come up in regular type of family are the same difficulties that we would face as a fostering family.”

He added: “In my opinion, it might make you a better fosterer if you’re deciding that you’re putting yourself in that way, as opposed to a straight couple who naturally would be expected to, and will have their family.”

Tusla is launching its first national fostering week on Monday 14 October in a bid to encourage more people to consider applying to be a foster carer, and is directing anyone who might be interested to its fostering website. 

Tusla CEO Bernard Gloster said: “Foster carer recruitment has to be a rolling process. There are 6,000 children in care in Ireland today… Thankfully, in our almost 4,000 foster care settings we have 1,100 of people who are relative carers, who step in from extended family and support. 

“It’s also a huge challenge for non-relative carers from all family structures now in Irish society, and thankfully we have such wonderful diversity, and a redefined view of what family is.”

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