Expert Advice

Your Foster Questions Answered by a Foster Expert and Foster-Adopt Dad

We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about becoming a foster dad — and Amara's Foster Care Services Supervisor Trey Rabun responded.

Dad Trey Rabun (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a foster Expert and a foster dad with our Instagram community via a question and answer session.

Read Trey's responses below.

How much does it cost to become a foster dad?

Some agencies may charge a fee (typically a few thousand or less), but all states and most agencies don't charge for the foster parent licensing process. There will be some legal and attorney fees should you adopt a foster child. These range from $800-$1200 in the Seattle area.

How long will we have to wait till a child is placed with us?

This depends. There are typically more foster parents licensed for younger children (birth to 5) so your wait will be slightly longer for these children compared to an older or teen child. Given that, most states have a shortage of foster homes so at my agency most families get placed within 4-6 months regardless of their age parameters; with a significant number getting placed a lot quicker! Keep in mind, it takes anywhere from 3 months to a year+ to get licensed and approved before placement can occur.

Will we face discrimination as gay men?

I think a lot of this depends on local city and state laws and the general climate around LGBTQ acceptance where you live. Granted, homophobia sadly occurs everywhere but more and more localities have passed anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ families in this process; including most "blue" states and cities.

How hard is it to adopt through the foster care system?

There are children in the foster care system who currently need an adoptive home after a judge has decided returning home is not a safe, viable option. These children tend to be school age or older and may have complex needs. Otherwise, the primary goal of foster care is to reunify children with their family so if you want a younger child and/or a child with lower needs you will need to be able to support reunification and the idea of having multiple placements before adopting a child/ren.

What can I do to ensure that we're agreeable candidates to be foster parents by an agency?

Do your research and check out websites to learn more information about the process and requirements. The requirements are there to ensure you will be a safe and stable home to a child in need. It will be an intrusive process, but the requirements aren't too burdensome. You can be single, a renter/live in apartment, and make a modest income. Also, HRC has a list of agencies that they work to ensure they are LGBTQ welcoming and affirming.

What do we have to do to get started?

After you've completed the things in the previous question, you need to choose what private or state agency you' like to work with for this process. Attend a few information sessions to learn more about that agency and their applicant and licensing process. I would also talk to current foster parents to get the "inside scoop" about the various agencies. Typically, all you need is the application to get things started. They will work with you to get your home ready and take you through the steps.

What does it take to become a foster dad?

After applying, you will begin the home study process. This will include writing a personal questionnaire detailing aspects of your life, both past and present. You will also be interviewed by a social worker who will also do a home inspection of your home to ensure its up to safety standards. You'll get a medical report from your doctor, have friends and family provide references, submit a financial statement, and get a background check completed. This process will culminate in the home study document which dictates the parameter of the child/ren you are approved to parent (age, sibling set, level of special needs, etc.)

How likely are we to be considered?

In theory, if you were able to get licensed you should be getting the same opportunities for placement consideration once approved. However, worker bias is a real thing but it's very hard to know when it has occurred since it's often subtle, and not blatant homophobia. Given that, in my eight years of doing this work there are two cases that come to mind where this occurred, so it happens, but not at a high rate. (Disclaimer: I live and work in socially liberal area so my experience may not be reflective of other communities in my state or other states).

Is it harder to become a foster dad if you're single rather than having a partner?

Yes and No. At my agency, our single parents go through the same process as partnered families, but we do ask more questions about a support network and who will play that role when a child is placed. There may also be times when the state is only seeking a two-parent home for some children like large sibling sets or children with high special needs.

As a foster dad yourself, what's the most important advice you have for fellow dads-to-be?

Be patient and to focus on being there for children in need. There will be times when things get frustrating and challenging and you may doubt yourself, that's normal! Between the paperwork and home study process to managing the needs and all the appointments of your foster children, it can be taunting at times. However, for every down moment there are a million ups and those are what keeps you going! There is nothing like experiencing the first time a child sleeps through the night because they finally feel safe in your home or a child who was two grade levels behind when they move in, but now are reading at grade level.

Who are the professionals involved in a foster journey? Who will I be dealing with daily?

You will work with a social worker to get licensed and approved. The children in your home will have a state assigned social worker that you'll interact with frequently. If you work with a private agency, you may also have a caseworker assigned to work with your family and provide extra support. Contact with the social worker and caseworker could range from daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the current level of support you need. At minimum, your social worker is legally required to come see you and the child monthly. The child could also have a Child Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Guardian At Litem (GAL) and/or a lawyer. There most likely will also be at least one service provider like a therapist, tutor, school counselor, etc. for your child that you will deal with as needed.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Speaks Out Against Trump's Attempts to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents

Any business that accepts federal funding must NOT DISCRIMINATE says adoptive dad Erik Alexander.

Four years ago we received the phone call that changed our lives forever. We were told that in our own city of New Orleans, there was a newborn baby that needed a forever home. What we were told by the agency would likely take five or more years took mere weeks. We frantically started putting together her nursery and planning for her arrival. She was born 10 weeks early and needed to stay in the NICU to grow and gain her strength and weight before she was released. She was so tiny and delicate. We were almost afraid to hold her in the beginning because of how fragile she was.

Finally, the day arrived that we were able to bring her home and we were thrust into overdrive. We prepared by reading all the baby books and watching the videos, but all that goes out the window when you have a baby in your arms. Our little baby had trouble digesting her formula due to her prematurity. The look in her eyes due to the pain she felt broke our hearts. We felt helpless! All we could do was just try to make sure to do everything on our end to help alleviate any pain she may encounter while feeding her. It was terrible. We would hold her for hours trying to console our hurting baby girl. I remember thinking to myself while she was crying that I would do anything to make her feel better.

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New York Will Fight 'Repugnant' Trump Rule on Adoption, Says Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York promises legal action of the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to allow discrimination against LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents

Last week, the Trump administration announced plans to allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBTQ parents — but he may face a legal fight from (former) hometown. In a tweet, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said the proposed move "isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values,— it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home." If the proposal moves forward, he continued. "we'll take legal action to stop it.

Governor Cuomo's office followed up the tweet with a lengthier statement posted to their website:

Once again the Trump administration is attacking the hard-earned rights and protections of the LGBTQ community, this time proposing a new measure that would give foster care and adoption agencies license to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Trump's proposal isn't just discriminatory and repugnant to our values — it's also heartless and dumb as it would deny countless children a loving family and a safe place to call home. If he moves forward with this rule, we'll take legal action to stop it.

No matter what happens in Washington, New York State is and will continue to be a beacon of equality in this country. Our Human Rights Law and adoption regulations expressly prohibit discrimination against the LGBTQ community, including when it comes to adoption. I encourage any LGBTQ New Yorker who feels they are a victim of this discrimination to contact the State Division of Human Rights for assistance.

Our message to the Trump administration is simple: there is no place for hate in New York or in our nation, and we will not allow this noxious proposal to stop LGBTQ New Yorkers from becoming parents or providing care to children in need.


Trump Administration to Allow Discrimination Against LGBTQ Foster and Adoptive Parents

In its latest move against the LGBTQ community, the Trump administration has proposed a rule that will give adoption and foster care agencies license to discriminate on the basis of religion

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule to reverse an Obama-era policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity — allowing foster and adoption agencies to legally refuse to work with prospective adoptive and foster parents who identify as LGBTQ on the grounds of religious belief.

Denise Brogan-Kator, speaking to the New York Times, said the proposal would have an "enormous" impact on the LGBTQ community, noting that all organizations that get funding from the department will be "free to discriminate."

The White House, for its part, proclaimed the proposed rule was promoting "religious freedom," saying in a statement that "the federal government should not be in the business of forcing child welfare providers to choose between helping children and their faith."

As the New York Times pointed out, LGBTQ couples with children are far likely than different-sex couples to be raising adopted children. This move in support of so-called "religious freedom," then, will merely negatively impact the more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system by denying them loving homes with LGBTQ individuals and couples.

Read more about this rule here. We'll be sure to keep readers up to speed as this issue develops.

Gay Dad Family Stories

These Gay Dads Lost Everything After Hurricane Dorian — Except Hope

The couple, who live in "Hope Town" in the Bahamas, lost everything after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian this past summer.

Max Bethel-Jones, 52, had traveled to more than 120 countries over the last 30 years working with the United Nations, but had never been to the Bahamas — in 2015, he decided to apply for a private teaching job as a special needs teacher in Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama.

Just weeks after his arrival, he'd get a whole lot more than another pin in his map of visited countries when he attended a social event at Freeport Rugby. "My object was to ogle the local male talent but several women had other ideas," he said. One woman was particularly insistent, he said, but after a couple of drinks she got the hint that he batted for the other rugby team. "She promptly told me there was someone I should meet."

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Gay Dads Told One Must Identify as 'Mother' to Enroll in Daycare

The Israeli gay dads told one must identify as mother — like a "normal couple" — in order to receive financial assistance for daycare.

Israeli dads Guy Sadak Shoham and Chai Aviv Shoham were trying to enroll their two-year-old twins in daycare when they were told by a government official that one would need to identify as the "mother" in order to be cleared.

According to Out Magazine, the couple was attempting to apply for financial aid to help pay for the costs of preschool when a government bureaucrat called them to discuss their eligibility.

"I understand that you are both fathers and understand that you both run a shared household, but there is always the one who is more dominant, who is more the mother," the government said, according to an interview on the Israel site Ynet (translated by Out Magazine). "I am just asking for a written statement in your hand which of you is the mother. From the point of view of the work, which works less than the father. Like a normal couple."

The official, apparently, said she was beholden to rules set for in the Ministry of Economy.

"It is mostly sad and a little disturbing," one of the dads told Ynet. "These are concepts that we consider the past. We do not necessarily come up with allegations against this representative, she is ultimately subject to the guidelines and as she said, they are the state. It is also sad that the state's definition of a mother is someone who works less and is at home with the children, and that we must choose which of us meets that definition."

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, fortunately, issued an apology following the incident, and promised to update its protocols. "We will emphasize that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs practices explicitly treat all types of families and grant equal rights to all," the ministry wrote in a statement, an apology that was called "insufficient" by Ohad Hizki, the director-general of the National LGBT Task Force.

"The Ministry of Labor and Welfare must sharpen its procedures immediately to prevent recurrence of cases of this kind, as other public organizations have been able to do," he said.

Read more about this story on Out Magazine.


World's First Sperm Bank Opens for HIV Positive Donors

Sperm Positive, started by three non-profits in New Zealand, hopes to end stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood

"Our donors have so much to give," say the promotional materials of a new sperm bank. "But they can't give you HIV."

The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

We applaud the effort all around! To read more about our own efforts to end the stigma surround HIV and parenthood, check out our recent round-up of family profiles, resources, and expert advice that celebrate the experience of gay dads living with HIV here.

Gay Dad Life

Top 10 Reasons You Should Date a Gay Dad

Jay Turner lays out the top 10 reasons you should consider dating a single gay dad

We're gay dads. Many of us were married to women, and for various reasons we eventually found ourselves single and looking for companionship from another man. Life is a little more complicated for us because we have kids. But that shouldn't deter you from seeking a relationship with a gay dad. In fact, there are many reasons why we make better partners than men without children. We are generally more mature, responsible, and emotionally available. We are also better communicators.

Here are the top ten reasons why you should date a gay dad:

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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