A gay foster youth who was adopted by two dads testified to a U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee this week about his experience in the foster care system, and about the importance of stopping religious foster and adoption agencies from banning same-sex couples who want to be parents.
21-year-old Weston Charles-Gallo of Missouri told members of congress on May 12th about being kicked out of his family’s house for his sexuality at a young age.
“My father was an alcoholic and a drug addict,” he said. “[He] was the deacon of the church and my mom was a member of the choir. I was taught that being gay doesn’t fit with worshipping God. I knew that I was gay at a really young age, but because my family deemed it an abomination, I couldn’t live as my authentic self.”
“I will never be able to forget my father’s words, loudly spoken; ‘If my son turns out to be gay, I will not only beat the gay out of him, but throw him out of my house.’ Those words will haunt me for a lifetime,” he added.
Charles-Gallo did end up being kicked out of his house for being gay at age 14. He told lawmakers he was informed that he was put in foster care because of his parents’ inability to accept and support his sexual orientation, because of parental neglect, and an overall hostile home environment.
“It really made me feel like I wasn’t enough, as if the dark thoughts in my head were true. I felt unloved, and that all became reality,” he explained.
Once he was in the foster care system, Charles-Gallo recounted the discrimination he faced as an openly gay foster teen.
“I was told by my social worker that different potential placements fell through because I might “turn the other children gay” or be a predator,” he told lawmakers. “No child should ever hear those words.”
At age 15, Charles-Gallo said he finally received the amazing news that his impermanence in foster care would be a thing of the past, and that he was going to be adopted into a family of two dads and six siblings.
Although his dads took him in and gave him a loving home, Charles-Gallo told lawmakers he has since learned many LGBTQ+ foster youth never get that same joyful news.
“An estimated 1 in 3 foster youth identify as LGBTQ+, which is over two times our representation in the general population,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my dads taking a chance on me and helping me embrace my sexual orientation, the color of my skin and who Weston is, I wouldn’t be here to share my story. When a child enters the foster care system, they just want to find a family that loves them unconditionally and supports them continuously.”
Charles-Gallo ended his speech to the House Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee by urging them to support the bipartisan John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which will end discrimination in the child welfare system and provide affirming services to every LGBTQ+ child in care.
“Why keep qualified parents from giving children the lives they deserve but never imagined?” Charles-Gallo asked lawmakers. “Because that is exactly what my fathers did for me. We should find more loving families like my dads that can be affirming of all kids in care.”