Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Story of a Gay Foster Parent

Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Story of a Gay Foster Parent

Article excerpt

My family has many characteristics that social service agencies would seemingly desire in foster parents. I'm a university professor with a doctorate who studies and teaches in the area of family communication. My partner is a high school teacher with a masters degree in counseling. We are involved in our community and our church, where I teach a Sunday School class for 6-8 year olds. I also have been a volunteer in the Big Brother program. As a couple, we have been in a loving and monogamous relationship for a number of years. We live in a farmhouse on five acres of land with lots of trees and room for kids to explore and play. We have a dog, two cats, a turtle, a flock of chickens, and two goats.

We also happen to be gay.

When my partner Tom and I initially discussed the possibility of becoming foster parents five years ago, we did not know if our sexual orientation would make a difference. At the time, the only gay parents we knew had grown children from previous heterosexual relationships. When we expressed an interest in foster care some of our gay friends were less than supportive. "Why do you want kids?" one friend asked us. "Not having them is the best part of being gay." Some heterosexual friends also questioned our decision to become involved in the foster care system. The wife of a close friend, who worked at a daycare center where some of the children were in foster care, described them as "damaged goods." She encouraged us to explore surrogacy or international adoption as other ways of becoming parents. Despite her warning, we still believed that foster parenting was the right decision for us.

To prepare ourselves, we read books on foster care and gay parenting. We attended a panel at a local church on gay parenting that helped answering general questions we had, although we were disappointed to discover that none of the parents on the panel had adopted through the foster care system. We also talked frequently with a close friend and her husband who were foster and adoptive parents. With their support, and the encouragement of other family and friends, we made the decision to get licensed.

Foster Care Agencies

The next decision we had to make was which social service agency to use. Because our friend and her husband had a positive experience with their agency, we started with them. We did have some initial reservations because the agency was affiliated with a religious denomination that generally did not welcome gays and lesbians. Our friend volunteered to talk to her case worker at the agency and she was told it was "not a problem" that we were a same sex couple. "We don't discriminate against anybody," the worker said. So we called the agency and got an information packet. We filled out all the required paperwork and questionnaires. We submitted to a police background check. We collected five letters of recommendation from good friends, including a minister and a psychologist. We attended the required 12 hours of training where we were, not surprisingly, the only same sex couple. It did not seem to bother anyone though, and up until this point we felt that we were treated no differently than the other couples seeking a license. Upon completion of the training we were told by the facilitator to prepare for a home visit, one of the final steps in the licensing process. About a week after that I came home to find a message from the agency's foster care director on our answering machine. She apologized and said she was unable to grant us a license because our "active same sex lifestyle" was a violation of the "canons of the church."

We were angry and disappointed by this decision. We also were confused because we were open about our relationship from the very beginning of the licensing process. In a follow-up letter we were told that it never occurred to the staff that the church's beliefs would cause the agency to limit their services. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding between the workers-who were doing the training and who saw the applicants' sexual orientation as irrelevant-and their supervisors. …

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