As you research ways to build your LGBT family, you may come across information on becoming gay foster parents. Foster care adoption is a wonderful way to bring a child into your life, not to mention a way to provide a home and support system to a child who desperately needs it.
LGBT foster care adoption is not much different than any other foster care adoption: You’ll have to meet certain requirements and be fully prepared for the challenges of the process. You typically have two options for bringing a foster child into your home: through a foster-to-adopt program or by adopting a child whose parents’ rights have been terminated and, therefore, who is already free for adoption. The state foster care system is the most popular way of growing a family in the U.S. today.
Here’s how each process works:
- Foster-to-adopt: A child who has been removed from their parents’ custody is placed into your home for support and safety. The ultimate goal of foster care is reunification, so the state will give the child’s legal parents an opportunity to meet certain requirements that will allow them to take the child back into their custody. When you choose foster-to-adopt, you welcome a child into your home with the hope that they will eventually be freed for adoption. However, becoming gay foster parents in this way can be difficult when a child is placed back with their legal parents.
- Adopt a waiting child: To avoid potential disruption from foster-to-adopt, some same-sex foster parents instead choose to adopt a child who has already been freed for adoption. There will usually be a period where the child lives with you before the adoption (for adjustment and to make sure it’s the right fit). Once you meet your state’s pre-placement requirements, you will be able to legally adopt the child.
But what if a permanent child placement isn’t right for you at this time? If you still want to have a child in your home without adopting them, you can always become an LGBT foster parent and provide a home for children while their parents are completing the reunification process.
Like with other child adoption processes, you may ask whether your ability to be an LGBT foster care parent is subject to discrimination. Fortunately, because the foster care system is run by a government agency, it cannot prevent you from becoming a foster parent based on religious beliefs like other faith-based organizations can. In fact, your sexual orientation on its own won’t prevent you from being a foster care or foster care adoptive parent at all. Because there are so many children waiting for homes in the foster care system, as long as you prove you can provide a safe, supportive environment, foster care professionals will be relieved to have another parent for these children in need.
Child welfare agencies like AdoptUSKids provide special training and resources to make sure that all LGBT families working through their agencies feel welcome and prepared for the gay foster care and adoption process. Within their agencies, focus is not on a foster parent’s sexual orientation — instead, just their readiness to be a supportive parent. Learn more about these inclusive policies and support systems here.
Why Same-Sex Foster Parents are Important
Same-sex foster parents actually have a huge impact on the foster care system, as they’re six times more likely to be raising foster children than opposite-sex couples. Studies have even shown that without gay fostering, the country would lose $87 to $130 million in child care, with individual states losing as much as $27 million. So, if you wonder whether you would be welcomed as an LGBT foster care parent, know that you will make a huge difference in not only the life of the child you adopt or foster but also in the system as a whole.
As one of the same-sex foster parents in the system, you will likely bring an empathy that other heterosexual parents cannot. Many of the children in the foster care system have been through traumatizing experiences that have left them feeling abandoned or neglected. They may feel like they’re different from classmates or friends who have a “normal” family life. As someone who has felt your own differences at various times in your life, you can likely identify with what they’re feeling. When you’re raising an adopted foster child, you can emphasize that differences aren’t a bad thing; they’re what make people special. You can show them that a family doesn’t have to be the typical mom-and-dad household that they may have dreamed of.
There are also children in the foster care system that are LGBT individuals — and feel even more lost or alone than their heterosexual peers. In fact, LGBT kids in foster care are overrepresented, with a higher percentage in the system than in the general population. They are in desperate need of homes and, in addition to the reason why they were placed in foster care, they usually have an added trauma of being rejected because of their sexual orientation. When you choose to adopt gay youth or foster gay youth, you can provide them a positive role model of an LGBT individual, which they may have never had growing up. You can also provide them emotional support than many child welfare agencies are, unfortunately, too ill-equipped to provide themselves.
Clearly, when you decide to become a gay foster parent or adoptive parent, you will make a huge difference in the life of the child that you welcome into your home. There are many children waiting for a safe, supportive and loving home that you can provide so, to get started today, contact your state foster care system or child welfare agency.