These amazing gay fostering dads represent everything Father’s Day is about
Damian Sayer didn’t even know it was possible for gay people to foster children.
Now the 48-year-old has two foster kids with his partner of 19 years, Rob Cornwell – and he couldn’t be happier.
“Do you wanna pull your hair out?” he asks PinkNews, laughing. “Yeah, pretty much every day.
“Is it worth it? One million percent.”
Damian, who has two biological children from a previous marriage, says that when his son left home, he “felt so empty – a void,” but had no idea he would be able to fill it.
“I couldn’t imagine a gay guy living with his partner being allowed to adopt or foster other people’s children,” he explains.
That was until he saw a Facebook post from another gay couple who had successfully fostered a child, and – like Brighton couple Kiiran and Chris, who have fostered 11 kids in 22 years – was hooked by the idea of making a positive change in the world.
“I’m not Mother Theresa,” he says, “but I’ve always thought that if I can make a difference with one person, I’ve reached my goal.”
When he finally told Rob that he was interested in fostering and had made an enquiry, he said his partner was delighted, saying: “Fantastic! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
After 15 months of authorities rigorously ensuring that the pair would make suitable parents – and with the help of Fostering People – they were able to make their dream come true.
Damian and Rob, who have been in a civil partnership for more than a decade, now take care of Samuel – a 12-year-old with severe behavioural issues – and Timothy, a transgender 16-year-old.
“It’s bloody hard work,” admits Damian – who lives on the outskirts of Birmingham – but he is clearly completely committed to his boys.
This can be seen in the way he and Rob have helped Timothy to explore his options as a trans teenager.
“Timothy knew who he was from quite a young age,” says Damian, “but his biological mum and dad couldn’t cope, and his grandparents couldn’t get their heads around it.”
Timothy had nowhere to turn, and ended up self-harming, as more than four in every five trans schoolchildren do.
He also attempted suicide.
“Rob and I had to fight to get Timothy, but he’s now a completely different lad, very settled, doing really well at school, and he’s already enrolled in college,” said Damian.
“Do we have issues with him? Of course! He’s a 16-year-old, going through a lot more s**t than a normal 16-year-old.”
But, he said, he got an immense amount of joy from helping the teenager.
“The first thing he said to me – I asked if there was one thing I could do, what would it be, and he said: ‘I want these cut off,’ pointing to his breasts.
“I said: ‘Have you never had a binder?’ and he replied: ‘What’s one of them?'”
Rob immediately ordered binders online, and when Timothy put one on, his foster dad said “he broke down in tears with happiness.
“He said: ‘Look, look! I can now do PE, I can go out running!”
The fact that he and Rob are gay men who grew up in a much more intolerant time makes them the loving foster parents they are, he said.
“It does have advantages, because we’ve been through the rejection; we’ve been through the name-calling.
“Samuel gets called names all the time, and so does Timothy – ‘Oh, you’re in fostering, you’re this, you’re that. But we can tell them: ‘That’s name-calling. Don’t let it affect you. You’ve got a lovely home with loving parents.'”
And from the way he talks about his foster kids, it’s clear that he considers them family.
“No-one will ever take their home away from them,” he says.
“They’re my kids. I don’t look at them as foster kids; they’re my kids.”
And, he says, “we are exceptionally proud of them.
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“They are my two babies, and no-one will ever hurt them again, as long as I’ve got breath in my body.”
And his message for any same-sex couples thinking of getting into fostering or adopting was similarly definitive.
“Go for it – providing you’re doing it for the right reasons,” he says.
“These children have been through hell and back. You’ve got to make sure you go into this long-term, and be prepared for the baggage.
“But don’t be frightened of what society says, because if Rob and I can do it, anyone can do it.”