Two foster carers are encouraging people from the LGBT+ community to become foster carers.

Annabelle and Sally Avis have been foster mums since October 2013, caring for 10 young people in this time.

The couple, who have been married for seven years, are long-term foster carers to three children. They are speaking out as part of LGBT+ History Month, which runs through February.

“It’s a very rewarding thing to do,” said Annabelle, 39. “It can be challenging but it’s very rewarding to see these children overcome so many obstacles and come out the other side. It’s really nice to see them transform their lives.”

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The pair both worked in a residential school looking after children and young people with autism, and wanted to do more.

Sally, 54, said: “We felt we had a lot more to give and that we could make such a change to young people’s lives.

“It just felt that the next step would be doing the caring that we were doing, but in our own home,” said Annabelle.

“It’s wonderful to have our three settled here for the long term. It’s that family feeling, that feeling of being a family unit that is so special,” she added.

LGBT+ History Month in February aims to promote the visibility of the community across society.

“No-one should be discouraged from fostering because of their sexuality,” said Annabelle.

“Different children have different needs. The first placement we had was looking after a girl who didn’t want to be around men, so we were a perfect match for her. Over time she got to spend time with the other males in the extended family and then went on to live with a man and a woman.

“There are variations in a child’s situation that same-sex couples can make a difference for. We just need more carers regardless of background, it shouldn’t matter,” she said.

Over 650 foster carers are currently needed in the South West to look after children.

“Swindon is a great place to be a LGBT+ family,” added Sally. “You’re just treated as an individual.”

Annabelle, from North Swindon, said: “Everyone has been so supportive of us and we didn’t experience any barriers when we began our fostering journey.”

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Anyone over the age of 21 can be a foster carer. The only requirement is a private bedroom for each foster child.

Adrian Chappell, service manager for Five Rivers Child Care in the South West, said: “It’s so important to have a diverse range of foster carers to reflect the children and young people entering the care system. We currently have some amazing and inspiring LGBT+ carers who are providing safe and