A Kirklees foster carer has come forward during Pride month to highlight how people from all backgrounds can enrich the lives of local children.

Georgina Ioannou, better known as George, has been a full-time foster carer since January 2021.

As someone who is divorced, single and a lesbian – and who experienced an unstable childhood herself – George says she is proof that there’s no such thing as a typical foster carer.

By sharing her story, the 47-year-old former finance team leader says she wants to break down misconceptions about who can foster and encourage people to take up the role with Kirklees Council.

George, from Mirfield, said: “Throughout my adult life I’d always had an affinity with, and had cared for, young family members.

“I wanted to make a difference and leave a legacy. When my mum passed away a few years ago, I reached a turning point in my life and began to look into fostering.

“I thought my background and circumstances might present barriers, but being single and a lesbian made no difference whatsoever to my application. In fact, the recruitment team was extremely supportive and I was encouraged every step of the way.

“This included talking about my early years growing up in London. Like so many children who enter the care system, I experienced trauma, upheaval and instability. As a result, I have a lot of empathy for the children I look after.

“I’ve looked after children on an emergency, short and longer-term basis, but what I tell them all is that it doesn’t matter how we start in life – our beginnings don’t define our future.

“With the right support, we can choose what we want in life. I believe that when we are kind and practice gratitude, we receive it in return.

“Being a foster carer in Kirklees is like being part of one big family. As well as the support I receive from the council fostering team, I also belong to a local fostering group, the Kirklees Fostering Network, who have welcomed me with so much warmth and enthusiasm.

“A child can never have too many supportive and encouraging adults as role models and that’s why our role as foster carers is so important. Fostering is immensely fulfilling and I can’t see myself doing anything else.

“To anyone who’s interested in fostering but who might not be sure if they meet the criteria, I would say ‘just go for it.’

“There’s an amazing diversity of foster carers out there – myself included – but there are always more people needed, from all walks of life, who can provide a vulnerable child with much needed love, support and stability.”

Clr Viv Kendrick, Kirklees Cabinet member for children, added: “George is someone who has turned the adversity she experienced in her early years into something positive and I applaud what she has gone on to achieve through fostering.

“Some people mistakenly believe that things such as their age, background, marital status or sexual orientation might be a barrier to them fostering.

“George doesn’t fit the mould of what some might see as a typical foster carer, yet she represents the rich diversity of foster carers we have here in Kirklees.

“Pride month provides a great opportunity for us to reach out to people from all backgrounds and walks of life, including the LGBTQ+ community, to not rule themselves out.

“What’s really important is providing a child with a loving, supportive home life. We welcome anyone who thinks they have the right skills and qualities.”

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, you can chat with the council fostering team – and George – at a stall at Huddersfield Pride on Saturday July 9.

Alternatively, visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/fostering email fostering@kirklees.gov.uk or call 0800 389 0086.