You Can Change a Life
Children & Families First welcomes LGBT couples, individuals, and their straight allies who are interested in fostering youth or adopting waiting children.
May is National Foster Care Month, and every year, we celebrate those children and adults who create wonderful families through foster care.
Did you know that right here in Delaware; there are over 600 children in Foster Care and only 400 foster families currently available to help? Of these 600, it is estimated that five to ten percent identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning (LGBTQ). LGBTQ youth come into the foster care system for a variety of reasons, which may include sexual orientation or gender expression. Sometimes, gay and transgendered teens are kicked out of their homes by their parents or relatives. Others may leave home on their own, in part because their families don’t accept their sexual orientation.
This is where you can help!
Children & Families First (CFF) is looking for welcoming homes. We are one of the foster care and adoption agencies in Delaware who has a long history of welcoming LGBT couples, individuals, and their straight allies who are interested in fostering youth or adoption waiting children. We will help prepare you to be a foster parent and will find the best fit for you and a child based on that child’s social, emotional, physical, and educational needs, as well as geographic location and sexual orientation. The need is great in Delaware to significantly increase the number of families who are affirming and accepting of our LGBTQ youth. Foster parents don’t need to be gay themselves, but they must be able to provide a supportive, loving home where the child’s gender and sexuality are not an issue.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Children need secure and enduring relationships with committed and nurturing adults to enhance their life experiences for optimal social-emotional and cognitive development. Scientific evidence affirms that children have similar developmental and emotional needs and receive similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders.” Pediatrics. 2013 Apr;131(4):827-30. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0376. Epub 2013 Mar 20.
Mike McHugh works in the Foster Care and Adoption program at Children & Families First, but before this became his career, he was a foster parent himself. “I guess you might say I was one of the pioneers in gay people fostering in Delaware,” Mike says. “Our kids were the first in the state to legally have two dads.” Mike and his then partner, now husband, Peter, fostered two brothers, Isaac and Avery, through Children & Families First. When it became clear that the brothers were going to need a forever home, Mike and Peter adopted the children. Mike recalls the process being “Intense at first…but I knew they were preparing me for the challenges of being a foster parent.” The rewards outweighed the struggles by far. “I grew a family through fostering and then adopting my children.” You can hear the love in Mike’s voice when he talks about his family.
Meeting other foster and adoptive parents who are LGBT themselves or are opening their homes to LGBTQ children, is very helpful, and CFF can help facilitate that. “Most LGBT parents say that they benefit from being part of a larger community of LGBT parents and that it is important for their children to see other families like theirs, especially as they get older. LGBT adoptive parents often have networks that overlap, some of which are tied to the adoption community and some to the LGBT community, but there is a lot of common ground,” according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway (2011). Frequently asked questions from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) prospective foster and adoptive parents. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
In addition to LGBTQ youth, Children & Families First works to place many children who are in need of Family Foster Care or Adoption Services, due to issues like physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or special medical circumstances. As a result, these children—like their parents—have a range of special and sometimes extraordinary needs. Family foster care offers many children and their families the opportunity to heal the hurt, grow, develop, and learn safer, more nurturing ways of being a family. It is the goal of the Family Foster Care Program to make every effort to reunite children with their parents when the court is reasonably certain the parents will be able to protect and nurture them. When family reunification is not possible, then adoption may provide a child with a safe, nurturing relationship intended to last a lifetime—affording the social and legal status that comes from belonging to a family of one’s own. There are other possible outcomes for older youth in foster care such as helping prepare them for living as an independent young adult when neither family reunification nor adoption are options.
We need adults like you to positively influence the lives of Delaware’s abused or neglected youth. If you have room in your heart and your home, Children & Families First can train and support you through the process and provide you with the financial assistance to care for a teen in need.
For more information, contact Children & Families First at cffde.org or 800-220-3092. They offer free 45 minute information sessions which take place at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesday of every month in their offices in each county. In existence for more than 130 years, Children & Families First helps children facing adversity on their journey to adulthood. We use proven methods to help families raise their children so they can flourish.