A KEY part of Barnardo’s LGBT work is with children and young people, those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or those questioning their sexual or gender identity (LGBTQ). This aims to help children and young people understand diversity and identity issues, and learn about healthy relationships.
Our campaign for age appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) to be made compulsory in all schools continues and had drawn the attention of the national media.
For many children and young people, dealing with diversity issues and finding their own identity can be difficult. For some, it can lead to self-harm, suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem. This can make them vulnerable to exploitation and poor educational achievement.
Barnardo’s works with a diverse cross-section of children, young people and their families, many of them with a direct or indirect link to lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT) issues. The charity runs a range of services to provide support and help to educate children and young people about diversity and to increase their LGBTQ awareness.
One of these is Positive Identities, a service that challenges the attitudes, perceptions and behaviours of schools, families, faith and wider communities towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning children and young people. One example is our faith toolkit which looks at tackling and preventing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying where there are issues relating to faith, culture and religion. Another scheme is Barnardo’s Equality AMbassadors (BEAMS), a peer mentoring initiative that is supported by a ‘Staff BEAM’ and a number of student BEAMS in each school in Calderdale.
Projects such as these have helped Jaike Mogg-Wright, 14, from Halifax, who last year began going to the Calderdale Identity Youth Group, in West Yorkshire.
Jaike had found it difficult to make friends and be open with his peers about his feelings. It was also having an adverse effect on his education. But Positive Identities Service introduced him to people going through the same experience and with whom he could share his thoughts, journey and concerns without feeling awkward or ostracised.
Indeed the experience has been so transformative that Jaike and his friends have shared their stories on Instagram. The account now has 4,000 followers, not only from the UK but as far afield as Australia and the US.
“The support group had been a really positive experience for all of us and we wanted to extend this help to others, and let them know that they weren’t the only ones dealing with these issues,” Jaike explained.
“One day while online I found an LGBTQ support group on Instagram called ‘The Queer Ones’. This was a safe space for anyone wanting to share their problems with others who had experienced the same issues and to get support.
“At the time, they were looking for additional administrators so I sent them a direct message and very soon I was one of the admin team for an international LGBTQ support group – something I could not have ever imagined myself doing before.
“Through Positive Identities, I have found new confidence to get out and meet people and share my experiences to help others. School can be a very isolating place for anyone who feels a bit different. The Positive Identities scheme has shown me that none of us are alone.”
Paul and Ian
FOR five years Paul and Ian, a same sex couple from West Sussex, had battled to achieve their dream of becoming parents. They contacted nine local authorities about adopting, but to their dismay were turned away every time.
Then a friend recommended Barnardo’s, the children’s charity, and they are now the proud parents of two brothers, aged eight and nine, who had been with separate foster parents before they were reunited.
“We’d talked about adopting for five years, so when it finally happened it felt incredible,” said Ian, 49, who has been with Ian for 17 years.
Since Thomas Barnardo created his eponymous charity more than 150 years ago, Barnardo’s has been challenging social perceptions – an approach as valid today as it was in the Victorian era.
One of the charity’s most cherished beliefs is that no-one should suffer discrimination as a result of their sexual orientation, and Barnardo’s has become a champion of diversity and inclusion, particularly where the LGBTQ community is concerned.
Following changes to the law in 2005, in part thanks to Barnardo’s campaigning, the charity was among the first organisations to embrace and encourage the adoption and fostering of children by same sex couples. It means that many couples have shared the joy experienced by Paul, 46, and Ian.
“Parenting has been a hugely rewarding and challenging experience. Like any parents we have good and bad days and sometimes we get some things wrong,” said Ian.
“The boys are now eight and nine and very settled and happy. They’re at a fantastic school, have their own bedrooms, bicycles and we are lucky enough that we can afford to take them on foreign holidays.”
Within a fortnight of approaching Barnardo’s, the couple had received a home visit, been assigned a social worker and been given a date for a training course. It took less than a year for Paul and Ian to be approved as adopters and in 2011 the brothers were placed into their care.
Speaking ahead of LGBT fostering and adoption week which begins on March 6, Ian and Paul said they wanted to raise awareness that same sex couples and single LGBT carers can adopt and that help for them to do so is available.
“There are still a lot of lesbian and gay people who don’t realise that it’s possible to start their own family,” said Ian. “As life becomes more and more diverse, the make-up of modern families is changing too.
“Barnardo’s has become part of our wider family and we have made friends with both same sex and heterosexual couples through their network meetings.”
Yvonne and Amanda,
After contacting the charity in 2014, they were initially approved as short-break carers, looking after children during planned breaks from their birth families or carers.
Despite the inevitable challenges, they have never doubted their decision. “It was a massive career change but because we loved it so much we wanted to do more of it and now we’ve got a permanent placement” says Yvonne, 50.
Like many same sex couples, Yvonne and Amanda, 46, have experienced discrimination and understand that some may be wary of adopting or fostering. However, they urged people not to feel intimidated and observed that potential adopters or foster parents do not need to own their own home and can be both single or in a relationship.
“Just go for it,” said Yvonne. “You will get beyond the initial apprehension and will be given all the answers you need.”
The couple’s first foster child has autism which provided challenges but also immense rewards.
“He asked quite openly whether we lived together and shared the same bedroom. The answer to both was ‘Yes’, and he was completely fine with it,” added Yvonne.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but fostering is the best thing I’ve done. And it’s helped our relationship because you work as a tag-team with the children.”
“Caring for children with challenging behaviours or learning difficulties can be hard, but seeing a young person grow, develop and improve, it makes the hairs at the back of your neck stand up.”
BARNARDO’S has also been named as one of the UK’s best employers for LGBT staff.
The charity was ranked 68th in the annual Top 100 Employers 2017 list produced by Stonewall a move up from 86th last year and ranks as one of the top 4 third sector organisations in the country for LGBT workplace equality.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “We’re very proud that Barnardo’s has once again made Stonewall’s top 100 employers and that we have moved up the ranking in such a competitive year. “We take our commitment to workplace diversity and inclusion very seriously and strive to make Barnardo’s a great place for everyone to work. We will continue to do so in the future.”
The list is compiled from submissions to the Workplace Equality Index and more than 430 employers submitted entries this year.
Duncan Bradshaw, Director of Membership Programmes at Stonewall, said: “Barnardo’s and all those who have made this year’s Top 100 Employers list have done a fantastic job, and really do put equality and inclusion at the forefront of their work.”
Lloyds Banking Group topped the list followed by Pinsent Masons, the law firm, and the banking giant JP Morgan.
To find out more about Barnardo’s and their work with LGBT+ visit the LGBTQ+ Hub