Young same-sex Yorkshire couple talk about ‘priceless’ memories fostering children

A Doncaster couple are urging other same-sex couples to consider fostering, as they have spoken about the "priceless" moments that make it so rewarding.

Nathan Page and Antony Dawson have found fostering extremely rewarding
Nathan Page and Antony Dawson have found fostering extremely rewarding

Nathan Page and Antony Dawson were both in their twenties and had been married for a year when they made the life-changing decision to become foster carers.

The Doncaster couple were driven by their desire to make a real difference to the futures of vulnerable young people in care by giving them "the life that they rightfully deserve".

Fast forward to 2020, and Mr Page and Mr Dawson are foster parents to two siblings – a boy and a girl, aged 14 and 12 – and relish the rewards and challenges that come with fostering.

Mr Page, 28, a hairdresser, and Mr Dawson, 32, a learning mentor in a deaf school, were inspired to foster after learning more about the experiences and outcomes of children in care through Mr Dawson’s previous roles. Working with young people who displayed challenging behaviour - and noticing that in many cases they were Looked After Children or supported by social services – Mr Dawson felt compelled to help, and it wasn’t long before he had Mr Page hooked on the idea of fostering too.

After meticulously researching the foster care process and options, Mr Page and Mr Dawson applied to become foster parents through NFA North, part of National Fostering Group attracted by its welcoming family feel, comprehensive training and support network and outstanding Ofsted rating.

“From the outset, we have had a really positive experience and quickly built up a strong rapport with our social worker and other staff. The fact that we were both male – and relatively young, still being in our twenties at the time – made no difference to how we were assessed. The children’s wellbeing is at the heart of everything, and this underpins training too – there’s a strong ethos of learning as much as you need to achieve the best outcomes for these kids.”

Annie Winter, head of recruitment at National Fostering Group, said: “Some people still have fixed ideas about who can and can’t foster – research indicates that 33 per cent of people believe those who are in a same sex relationship are not able to foster. If you can offer a foster child a stable home then your sexuality does not matter. Likewise, age is not a deciding factor. It is important that there is a wide range of foster carers available at any given time, with different experiences and skill sets, so that the right match can be made when a child is in need of care.”

Since welcoming the two siblings to their family almost three years ago, Mr Page and Mr Dawson have watched them flourish – both at school and at home. “We have built up a strong sense of trust between us,” said Mr Page. “Learning to listen to each other is so important in family life, and we are seeing them grow in confidence and maturity.”

“We have a huge support network to help us through the ups and downs of fostering – times around Christmas or birthdays can be particularly tough for children in care, who may not always be able to see their birth families. Our social worker is fantastic, and we have got to know lots of other foster carers through support groups – we can ask them about anything without feeling embarrassed. In the summer, we’re just like one big family and often get together for a big day out, such as to the seaside.

“The children always go out of their way to buy cards and gifts for us both for birthdays, Christmas and Father’s day. They always give us ‘DAD’ cards and they write such warm heartfelt messages inside – it is always a good feeling hearing their appreciation and gives us a huge sense of satisfaction knowing they feel settled.

“Another major highlight was taking our two foster children on holiday abroad for the first time,” said Mr Page. “Neither of them had ever been on a plane before so being able to share the experience with them – and help expand their horizons - was priceless.”

Their advice to others considering fostering is simple: “If you’re open-minded and willing to adjust your expectations and take each day as it comes, then fostering is such a rewarding role. Foster carers need to be real advocates for the kids they’re looking after and remember that every kid is different and needs love and nurture to thrive. As with any job there are challenges and hurdles along the way, but knowing and seeing first hand that you are able to give a child the life that they rightfully deserve makes all the challenges seem like small bumps in the road. Fostering is an amazing journey!”