Matthew Hamparian and his husband Brian Lawrence have been together for over 18 years and live in Columbus, Ohio. "We had talked about children for a long time," shared Matthew. They were inspired by the show "The Fosters," and watched it regularly as one of the staffers of the show was a friend of Brian's. In one of the episodes, Matthew remembers a conversation between a foster child and the biological child of his foster parents. The foster child asks if he was okay with the fact that he had to share his home with foster siblings. He responds that he is okay with it, because he and his family have enough of everything.
"It was very meaningful to us as we were both raised that when you got up the ladder, you threw the ladder back," explained Matthew.
So the couple began their foster journey in 2013. They were at their local Pride festival and Youth Advocate Services (YAS) had a booth set up. "We were off to the races."
The first child to be placed in their care was an 11-year-old boy. He was with them for a little over a year and then returned to his biological mother. They keep in contact and help as they are able.
Their second child, Jordan, who they later adopted, arrived in 2014. He was seven years old. "Our beloved 11-year-old has had a rough start to life," wrote Matthew recently on his blog, CMHFosterDads. "We love him dearly, but managing his needs is rarely easy. Managing a kid with trauma impact is very tricky business, but much is about first stabilizing, securing and providing a sense of immediate safety."
Matthew continued by explaining the brains of children with trauma impact are wired a bit differently psycho-physiologically. "We have to parent far differently than our peers or siblings parent, and far differently that we were parented," said Matthew. "How do we overcome that? Baby steps. Forgiving ourselves for the almost constant feelings of failure and frustration. Knowing that we take two steps forward and one step back; celebrating the small wins."
Matthew and Brian adopted Jordan on January 20, 2018. The entire extended family was there and they all went to lunch after to continue the celebrations.
In June 2018, after six months of weekend visits, they began fostering another child full-time. Sadly, for everyone, the placement did not work out long-term.
"Matt and I have experienced the full cycle of fostering," shared Brian. "A child that returned home, an adoption, and a placement that didn't work out. Each experience, joyful and heartbreaking, and worth the time and investment."
"We lean on each other a lot," Matthew added. "We have family members in the medical and counseling fields, educators in our families, co-workers with special needs kids that keep us grounded as well. We have other daddies for play-dates and advice. Our softball teammates have been great. It really takes a village."
As foster dads, they used to feel like "unicorns" among other LGBTQ couples. But now, as more LGBTQ folks opt into parenting, they no longer feel like the odd ones out. Matthew and Brian have been licensed foster dads for over five years and are involved in the Columbus' Gay Dads group. Matthew also used to be on the board for the Family Pride Network in Ohio.
As more and more LGBTQ folk consider becoming parents, Matthew has some advice for them: "Jump in. As unprepared and scared as you might feel, most bio parents feel the exact same way. Cut yourself some slack. Also, it does, indeed, take a village."