From Partying to Parenthood: LGBTQ+ History Month

From Partying to Parenthood: LGBTQ+ History Month

Happy #LGBTHistoryMonth! This February, the Martin James Network is excited to celebrate the lives, legacies and histories of LGBTQ+ people in the UK and abroad. Throughout the month we will be posting information pieces, stories from colleagues across the network, useful links and much more. Kofi Aboagye-Broadhurst,  Director of Kingston Noble , shares his story on raising a family as a LGBTQ+ household.

I would love to say that weekends in my 20s began with raspberry quinoa smoothies and mile-long runs – but they didn’t. Saturdays usually started with a massive hangover after yet another Friday night of partying with my friends. We’d spend the rest of the weekend comparing our hangovers and watching our favourite TV boxsets.

Then the next Friday, we’d meet up straight after work and try to make that weekend’s session even more epic than the last. At the time, this seemed like living the dream. Constant fun, no responsibilities, and the freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

But then life reached a point where I wanted more. Was the highlight of my week always going to be downing ten shots and getting a shout-out from the DJ? There had to be more to it than that. It had to be possible for all of us to get more from our lives…

In 2021, life is completely different. My husband, two wonderful children, and fun family days out fill days that I used to waste doing nothing. Adopting has changed our lives forever. The process was one of the most difficult, but rewarding, things we’ve ever done. Here’s everything you need to know about the LGBT adoption process. If we could do it, then so can you.

We hope that this article inspires a few people to take a leap of faith and give a loving home to some kids who really need their support.

Finding a greater purpose

There was a void in our lives that only children could fill. Surrogacy seemed too difficult, due to the legal complications that can arise during the process in the UK. At any time during the process, the woman who gives birth to the child can decide that she would prefer to raise the baby herself, causing a heart-breaking situation for everyone involved.

In the end, we chose adoption. We wanted to give a loving home to one of the many thousands of children across the UK who are not lucky enough to be born into one and grow up in the care system. Government figures released early in 2020 showed that 78,150 children in the UK were in care.

Although the number of LGBT couples putting themselves forward to become adopters and fosterers has increased annually over the last decade (1 in 6 of all UK adoptions in 2020 were by LGBT couples), many in the LGBT community who would love to adopt don’t put themselves forward. This is often because of fears of being judged, or even being rejected, because they are gay, bisexual or transgender.

Why do so many in the LGBT community avoid the adoption process

This is something that many straight couples struggle to relate to. Imagine having to sit in an interview saying: ‘Hi, please evaluate me against your social norm. I’m totally positive that despite my heterosexuality, you won’t find me incapable of looking after kids. Btw, did I mention that I’m straight? Hope that’s OK.’

Adoption agencies continue to make huge efforts to appeal to the LGBT community. That is evidenced by LGBT adoption statistics above.

However, this fear of homophobia and ostracization still puts many off applying. Questions such as ‘how you would react to your child getting teased for having gay parents?’ Or ‘do you think you would be able to meet the needs of a child in the same way as a mother?’ can be incredibly hurtful. Answering questions like these were very tough. You’re sat there wondering why society can’t see past the fact that you’re gay and appreciate the amazing life that you would give any child who joined your family.

Despite this, going through the process and adopting a child is one of the most worthwhile things you will ever do. Research suggests Parent-child relationships are typically just as strong in same-sex couples as in heterosexual ones. Research published by CoramBAAF actually suggests that gay fathers show greater levels of interaction with their child than other types of parents

How adoption changed our lives

For a start, cutting out drinking every single week does wonders for your health. Before lockdown, our weekends were spent visiting theme parks, zoos, bowling alleys and generally doing the exact opposite of everything we used to do on a Saturday. With two kids to look after, we’re always busy (even in lockdown).

Our children have brought so much happiness to our lives. Helping two wonderful humans grow into wonderful adults completes our lives and gives us the purpose we were looking for. Adoption gives you the opportunity to change the lives of each child you invite into your family for the better, forever.

People often look back on their lives and reflect on their career success, the wonderful holidays they went on, and the amazing things they owned. These are all fantastic memories, but are they all that life has to offer? What if you could look back on giving a child who was facing a hugely difficult life the opportunity to live their dreams? How rewarding would that be?

Inspiring others

After hearing about what we did, one of our good friends also decided to adopt. He is now father to three siblings with his partner. That’s the course of another three young lives transformed from a negative pathway to one filled with love and happiness (and two more immensely proud LGBT parents).

Sometimes life gives us great opportunities that look like opportunities. On other occasions, huge opportunities are hidden behind bigger challenges. The size of these challenges often mean that a lot of people never seize the opportunity. This is often the case when it comes to adoption in the LGBT community.

Adoption is one of these hidden opportunities. The process can seem particularly difficult for LGBT couples, but these difficulties are just temporary. The fulfilment that adopting will give you and your newest family members will last forever.

Keep an eye out on more stories to come from the Martin James Network as we celebrate and remember LGBT History month. Follow our social media pages to find out more.

Key Assets’ role in LGBTQ+ history – Steve Jacques

Key Assets’ role in LGBTQ+ history – Steve Jacques

Happy #LGBTHistoryMonth! This February, the Martin James Network is excited to celebrate the lives, legacies and histories of LGBT people in the UK and abroad. Throughout the month we will be posting information pieces, stories from colleagues across the network, useful links and much more. First up is Key Assets. Steve Jacques, Group Chief Executive Officer at Key Assets, part of the Martin James Foundation, gives us an insight into how they are contributing to the history of LGBT+.

It’s so good to shine a light on this and also to highlight our own role in making history. For example, did you know that Key Assets companies in Australia and Ireland, with board endorsement, were either the only one or one of very few children’s services organisations, to publicly support a ‘yes’ vote in the respective referendum/plebiscite on marriage equality? We have also been instrumental in campaigning for supporting the right for LGBT+ people to foster and adopt in Ireland, the UK, Finland and Japan. In Japan and Finland we partnered with the work of Rainbow Foster Care JPN and Rainbow Families FIN to promote the contribution that LGBT+ families can bring to foster care provision in these countries. In 2017 the Osaka Prefecture approved the first gay couple, as foster carers, in Japan!

We were the first independent children’s services company to be included in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index and the Australian Workplace Equality Index for our commitment to LGBT+ inclusion. In fact Key Assets Australia have not only made it on the AWEI, every year since 2015, but were also recipients of the prestigious LGBT ‘Employer of the Year’ Award on three occasions. In Ireland we are the only independent fostering agency to ever be nominated for a GALAS LGBT+ Outstanding Company Award since the award’s inception in 2009. Senior managers across our network have also been recognised by being shortlisted at LGBT and Diversity Award events around the world.

We were one of the first to introduce equal benefits to LGBT+ employees, before the introduction of equality legislation. We also put in place, long before others, a framework for how we would support our Trans colleagues through their transition journey.
Our first Group CEO, Estella Abraham, was identified by Stonewall UK as an LGBT Role Model in 2016 and Steve Jacques, the current Group CEO of our network of companies across Europe has been recognised 3 years running within the Top 100 LGBT+ Executives Role Models lists published by Google, Deloitte, Financial Times & Yahoo Finance.

Did you know that 23% of the senior leaders within Key Assets branded companies identify as Lesbian or gay? Each one of them, along with LGBT+ allies, have actively engaged in campaigning for the civil rights of LGBT+ people. Our people have protested, lobbied, campaigned over issues of legalisation, age of consent, education, equal treatment, marriage equality, conversion therapy, the right to foster and adopt, equality legislation, Trans rights and workplace equality, to name a few.
During LGBT History month we reflect on the progress made, in many places, but we recognise there is still so much to do to ensure a brighter future for our LGBT+ colleagues, friends, family members, foster carers, clients and most of all our children and young people! Companies across the Network have been and will continue to be instrumental in achieving this and continuing to make history!

This is the first of many pieces to come from the Martin James Network as we celebrate and remember LGBT History month. Follow our social media pages to find out more.

New Mentoring Scheme launches across Martin James Network – Louise Carr

New Mentoring Scheme launches across Martin James Network – Louise Carr

Here at the Martin James Network, we take the development of our future leaders very seriously. This is why we are rolling out a mentoring program during January 2021 as part of National Mentoring Month to help our future leaders learn and grow. In line with our diversity charter, this mentoring is initially aimed at employees from the BAME and LGBT communities who will be guided by our leaders across the Network over the next 12 months.

Why we believe in mentoring

We believe that mentoring can be mutually beneficial, to the mentee, the mentor and the Martin James Network as a whole. We know that our leaders have a wealth of experience to share; they have skills that can support, encourage, inspire, empower and motivate. A mentoring program gives the opportunity to share these skills with a less experienced employee. Mentoring enables the mentee to grow and progress in a range of skills, such as leadership and developing confidence.

If the experience and skills are already within the business, then it makes sense to share and let others learn from them!

What individuals gain from mentoring

Having a mentor can help a person reach their potential. Often a person has the right abilities, they just need the right person to share their experiences, show them how to develop their abilities and how to focus their talents. With the support of a mentor people can significantly build confidence in their professional life.

Being a mentor is equally as rewarding as you watch a person grow and develop, guide them through putting their new abilities and skills in to practice. It can also aid the mentor’s own communication skills, reinforce and remind themselves of their own skillset and knowledge, and recognise areas for development in themselves.

There can be a huge sense of fulfilment and personal growth for the mentee and mentor.

At the Martin James Network we are confident that mentoring is a great way to develop our people and with it being National Mentoring Month, now feels the perfect time to start this.