Little research exists on LGBT foster parents. (Anyone beginning to sense a theme here?) So what do we know of GBT dads who become foster parents? According to Dr. Gates of the Williams Institute, of the 8 percent of same-sex male couples are raising children under 18 years old, “1 percent identified at least one of their children as a foster child." In raw numbers, this means that approximately 2,600 same-sex couples are raising an estimated 3,400 foster children in the US.
Similar to adoption, same-sex couples are much more likely to be raising foster children than are their heterosexual counterparts. According to the Williams Institute, in fact, same-sex couples are six times more likely than their different-sex counterparts to be raising foster children.
GBT individuals often face additional challenges when deciding to become foster parents that their heterosexual and cisgender (meaning "not transgender") brethren do not. The legal context for LGBT foster parents is often unclear, for instance. According to the Family Equality Council, seven states in the country have passed laws that specifically restrict discrimination against LGBT people seeking to become foster parents. The law is ambiguous in most other states.
According to the ACLU, an estimated 500,000 children were in foster care in 2014 around the country, and 100,000 of these children needed to be adopted full time. However, only 20,000 adoptive parents were available last year for these children. Given these statistics, it is ridiculous to think that some states make the process of becoming a foster parent difficult for deserving LGBT people like Edward Peddell, who we first introduced Gays With Kids readers to in a Family Spotlight this past April.
“I felt as if something was missing in my life!" Ed told me, when I asked him what made him decide to become a foster parent. “I have always been a humanitarian and reached out to help those less fortunate. As an educator I saw the need for people to step up and assist children in need. They enter the system through no fault of their own. Parents have made poor choices and decisions; thus, the children are removed for their own protection. We take them in, love them, provide for them and build a support team around them until they are reunified with their biological parents."
Raymond and Daniel Trumble-Stazzone, who we introduced you to in an article last December, also said that fostering children is a rich and rewarding, albeit it challenging, experience. “Being a foster parent can be the most rewarding and difficult experience of your life," Raymond wrote to me via email. “Children in foster care have typically experienced more trauma in their lives at such and young and fragile age than most adults will ever go through. Working with these children and helping them through their specific needs can be very challenging."
Raymond and Daniel planned to foster children they hoped to ultimately adopt one day, and cautioned other GBT men to not feel bad about setting this type of parameters while working with foster and adoption agencies. You might have a preference for single child versus a sibling group, he said, for example, or might also want to only work with foster children who are eligible for adoption.
What advice does Ed have for someone thinking of this route to parenthood? “Be sure that you are willing to give 100 percent. Being a parent is a full-time job! You should be your child's biggest advocate and love them unconditionally. Your life as you know it will change, so be sure this is what you desire and most of all be prepared for anything."
If you are considering becoming a foster parent, be sure to research the laws in your state through organizations like the Family Equality Council, and check out the resources available by groups like the Humans Rights Campaign. Gays With Kids writers have also brought readers several fascinating stories on the subject, so be sure to check those out here.