Fostering Pride: What it Means to Be a Foster Mom for LGBTQIA+ Children
June is Pride Month, a month during which we commemorate the history of oppression, celebrate the strides toward equitability, and consider the work still to be done to ensure that members of the LGBTQIA+ communities across the country and the world are treated fairly. Given the setbacks in progress toward inclusion for trans individuals, especially trans women and girls, I felt this would be a good time to discuss my thoughts on being a foster parent who creates a safe space in her home for children who might identify with one or more of the letters.
What's it like to be a foster parent to LGBTQIA+ children? I would love to say that it's just like fostering any other children, but it isn't. In my home, on most days, I think it is. We talk, we eat, we have debates about the merits of flossing and vegetables. We have chores and play games. We get to know the neighbors and play with the cats. I surround them with love and protection.
But outside of the home, and on some days, it is clearly not like fostering children who are not LGBTQIA+. It's correcting people who dead-name trans children, so that the children don't have to. It's discussing how painful it is to learn about a law in Ohio that makes it legal to check a child's genitalia. It's reminding the bisexual child that they deserve love and kindness, particularly when messages from outside tell them otherwise.
LGBTQIA+ children are significantly more likely than their peers to become homeless, either due to running away from painful experiences or being pushed away from homes where they are not allowed to live as themselves. Many then find themselves in the foster care system, where they are again more likely than their peers to spend significant amounts of time in group homes. Foster families are allowed to identify which children we are and are NOT willing to take in. Some of these options include people who have exhibited cruelty to animals and a penchant for starting fires. Other options include sexuality and gender identity.
Don't get me wrong here: I don't think anyone needs to accept into their home a child they cannot accept as the child is. I just wish there were more people who could accept children for who they are, who were also willing and able to become foster parents. It would mean people like myself would feel more comfortable requesting to use respite care (which occurs when another family takes in a child for a couple of days to a week) when we have LGBTQIA+ children, because we would know that there is a greater likelihood that someone will say yes. It would mean I wouldn't be wondering if I should begin opening my home ONLY to such children. It would mean a larger community of families could connect with each other and know that our children could feel comfortable being themselves without worrying how they will be viewed by other children.
My hope is that during Pride Month, there might be some adults out there who have chosen to consider becoming foster parents. I hope that fewer children feel unloved because of who they are. I hope that love brings us to greater unity.