Whether you’re starting out on your adoption or fostering journey, or are several years into it, you’re encouraged to be open and honest. You need a strong relationship with your agency and social worker. But what if you’re struggling with your mental health? At New Family Social we usually hear from our members as that situation escalates. Before we wrote about depression we wanted to know how it affects our LGBT+ members. So we asked them.
Nearly two in three of our LGBT+ Gold and Silver members who responded – 62 per cent – reported symptoms of depression relating to their adoption or fostering journey. This may shock you. When we asked our Bronze members – who are usually starting the process, or in Stage 1 – this rose to 63 per cent. However, the assessment process alone requires you to submit to an exposing evaluation. A significant proportion of LGBT+ people expect their sexual orientation or gender identity to be a barrier in their assessment. This can take a high mental toll from the outset. Earlier this year, 1 in 3 of our members – who were currently family-finding – said their sexual orientation was a barrier at that stage. For those LGBT+ people who’ve parented or cared for looked-after children for years, the recent pandemic brought its own challenges. Vulnerable children often need stability and certainty. These are two factors in short supply in 2020. With those factors absent, a child’s need for support can spiral and place a high burden on their adoptive parent or foster carer.
Nearly 2 in 10 – 19 per cent – of our LGBT+ Gold and Silver members report receiving a diagnosis of depression relating to their adoption or fostering journey. Why this is so much lower is unclear. It’s possible that LGBT+ people feel the need to continue and not seek help. Why admit a problem when you've passed each previous challenge in your adoption or fostering assessment? Some will effectively manage their signs of depression without help. However, the disparity between the number of LGBT+ adopters and foster carers experiencing symptoms of depression and the number who receive a diagnosis is notable. And may be a cause for concern.
Seeking help isn't a sign of weakness. The fear that asking for support will negatively affect your assessment can't stop you from accessing support. Not seeking help because your agency is unresponsive will not resolve your situation. Stepping back from parenting if your partner seems closer to your child will only exacerbate the situation.
Sometimes talking to other adopters or foster carers will help. Others in the same situation may bring a perspective you need. If your sexual orientation or gender identity is being treated as a barrier, then talking to other LGBT+ people can help. Your GP can help you access talking therapies or medication if those are what you need. Ultimately, your ability to meet the needs of your child is paramount. If your mental health suffers you should know you aren't alone. Help is available and your situation will improve. Whether you reach out to other LGBT+ adopters or foster carers, New Family Social or your agency you can manage your mental health better with their support.
There's some useful information from the NHS online
Contact the Samaritans if you need to speak to someone urgently