When my partner and I first walked into the foster care agency we were really just there to volunteer.
"We need foster parents," the director explained to us. We weren’t expecting this, but we were certainly open. My partner and I had always wanted a family, so after several more visits and a lot of soul-searching we ended up taking the plunge. We were thrust into the crazy emotional, broken but wonderful universe that is foster care.
That the agency needed parents was a heartbreaking understatement in light of the numbers. Throughout our journey as foster parents it has become more and more clear, due to the shortage of couples willing to foster, just how damaged the entire system is.
When a child is removed from his home, the public’s expectation is that an agency will immediately place him with a loving family. But very often this simply does not happen. Children are sometimes kept in shelters, in temporary housing, or spend night after frightening night in office buildings. Other problems exist too, from lack of funding to uncaring judges, to overworked social workers. I don’t pretend to know all the problems and all the answers.
What I do know is that one of the most significant problems across the United States is a shortage of potential foster families for children in foster care. As a new couple entering the foster care world we were hit with a palpable sense of urgency as soon as we entered the licensing classroom. Learn and learn fast. Do your paperwork yesterday. Know your answers before we call. Be ready.
Three hours after we were licensed and weeks before we received a hard copy in the mail, we received our first call for a baby. Apparently three hours between license and placement is not unusual. Why? The answer is simple: There are not enough foster parents.
Meanwhile, more and more gay couples are finally able to get married. More than thirty states have now passed legislation in favor of marriage equality and more states are sure to follow. In Florida, for example, gay couples will be allowed to marry beginning January 6, 2015.
At this point in history, the gay community is presented with a unique opportunity. As we gain the right to legal marriage, we also find ourselves well positioned to provide a solution to one of the biggest problems in society at large. According to one statistic, there are two million gay couples that have expressed an interest in starting a family – two million. That means there are two million couples festively decorating their fireplaces this year in a country where 400,000 kids have no place to hang their stockings.
If only one of every five gay couples fosters a child, the shortage of foster parents would be completely eliminated!
If you have ever thought of becoming a parent through foster care, there has never been a better time. Foster care agencies in every city and region across the United States are looking for loving people like you to get involved one way or another. A great point to start is RaiseAChild.US, a national organization that connects our community with LGBT-friendly foster care agencies; you can also contact your local agency directly.
Be a part of the solution. You’ll be glad you did.