These Men Open Up on the Beauty and Challenges of Being Gay Foster Dads
Jay and Joe love being foster dads, but have faced discrimination as members of the LGBTQ community
"Every time a foster child would leave our home, we felt that maybe we couldn't do this anymore – the pain was too much," said foster-adopt dad, Jay. "And then we would take that time, focus on the other kids we were fostering, collect ourselves, and try to move on, but not forget." Jay and his husband Joe began fostering children before same-sex marriage was legal. They have fostered six children in total, and adopted two, 7-year-olds Tyler and Jason.
The adoption dates of their two sons bring a joyous memory for the family; a day they were celebrated and finally acknowledged as a forever family of four. Here's their story.
Jay and Joe Bostick met while living and working in Houston over seven years ago. In 2012, when federal marriage rights did not exist, they eloped to New York City and were married in City Hall. Shortly after returning to Houston, they began their training to become foster parents. "Being gay persons, we knew the feeling of not always having a place to call home," said Jay, explaining their choice to foster. "We wanted to offer a safe haven for children who needed respite while their parents were taking care of themselves."
The training itself took a year before Jay and Joe became licensed through the Child Protective Services (CPS), and then it was another year before the first foster child was placed in their care. While most families would get placements much sooner, the foster dads-to-be experienced discrimination due to their sexuality. "After we would get a call to take a child, and I would disclose that [we were a same-sex couple], we would never hear from that social worker again," said Joe. It wasn't until they voiced their frustrations to one of the placement workers, a woman named Lynette, that things began to change.
She identified some case workers who were LGBT friendly and told the husbands that the next placement was theirs. And she was true to her word. A week later a little girl was placed in Joe and Jay's care and stayed with them for two years (2014-2016) until a judge reunited her with her biological parent. Sadly, the dads have not been allowed any contact with her since her reunification due to the birth family's refusal to acknowledge her time in protective care.
Their second foster child came to them in 2016 and was with them for a year before being reunited with members of his birth family, an aunt and uncle who the young boy had never met. Again, the birth family has preferred to cease contact with the dads, and even complained to the judge that it was immoral for their son to have been placed with two men. "Not being able to see the children that you raised - some for several years - because they are reunited with the birth family is a pain that dulls over time, but never goes away," said Joe.
Tyler (left) and Jason
In 2016, they received another call about a young boy named Tyler, aged 5, who was an adoptive placement. When CPS asked Tyler what kind of a mommy and daddy he wanted, he had said "I don't want a mommy, I want two daddies. Do you know Captain America and Superman? I would like them to be my dads." And so, in a tiny East Texas town, a social worker searched the Texas Foster-to-Adopt database until he found Joe and Jay. And thus, Tyler got his Captain America and Superman.
Also in 2016, Joe and Jay began fostering three half brothers; one was called Jason. When they first heard of the brothers, they were only licensed to accept two children at one time. Not wanting the boys to be separated, Joe and Jay had their license amended so that they could have as many as four foster children in their home at once. An adoptive family was soon vying to adopt all three of the brothers.
That adoption placement did not work out, and unbeknownst to Joe and Jay, Jason ended up being bounced from foster home to foster home for ten months, till eventually he was placed in a psychiatric hospital. Once the dads found out, they hired a lawyer, and fought to adopt him. "[Jason] had been through hell, and wasn't quite the same child when he returned to us," said Jay, "but we were hell bent on being his fathers and giving him the life he deserved. He now is fully adopted and has made incredible strides."
Jason's half-brothers were eventually adopted by an amazing couple who live 40 miles from Jay and Joy and they see each other a few times a year.
On two significant days in 2017, Jay and Joe celebrated the adoption finalizations of their two sons, Tyler and Jason. On both occasions, the courtroom was packed with more people than the judge said he'd ever seen. "The road has been so long for both the boys and for us that everyone wanted to see the final step," said Jay. "It was a feeling of love I had never experienced. This felt like true acknowledgment from the court, our friends, and our family that our family was not only legitimate, but also celebrated," added Joe.
Nowadays, Joe and Jay's lives, from dawn till dusk, are all about being fathers to their sons. If they're not coaching the little league basketball team, the dads are helping with math homework, or challenging their sons to a duel on the Ninetendo.
Tyler's adoption day
From their own experience with Child Protective Services, Jay and Joe would never recommend working directly with them - instead they suggest finding a private agency that also has public foster-to-adopt programs. But without CPS, they would never have become dads to their amazing sons. "The foster to adopt process is arduous, and long; several years long," said Jay. "But in the end, we have such peace that we were able to provide a permanent home and stable environment for two young men who could've been lost to an apathetic system."
One day, when their sons are at college and they have an empty home, the dads hope to foster again and provide more children a place to call home, even if temporarily.
Jason's adoption day