Love Them For Who They Are

Love Them For Who They Are

On a cruise in 2020, Joshua and Matt discussed what type of family they wanted. Their conversation included fostering, adopting, or having children through a surrogate.

The couple, married in 2018, knew they wanted a family; they just weren't sure what form it would take. They made their decision in 2020 when a friend, who is a foster care case manager, mentioned a teenager who identified as LGBTQ+ and had asked to be placed with a same-gender couple. Joshua and Matt were motivated to become foster parents, even though they wouldn't be licensed in time to foster the teen who made the request.

The need for LGBTQ+ foster parents is significant. Young people who identify as LGBTQ+ make up 30 percent of children in foster care compared to only 11 percent of the general population, according to three studies in the past five years. While the need is great for all foster parents, it's particularly true of foster families who belong to the LGBTQ+ community.

The couple jumped into the process, which involved home visits and intense interviews to ensure they had what it takes to be foster parents. Questions included family histories, philosophies on discipline, and how they envisioned being a foster family.

"I'm not going to lie, it's an invasive process," Joshua says. "But it has to be that way."

Undeterred, the couple took the fast-track in their training, participating in two 3-hour sessions a week so they could finish the process in four-and-a-half weeks instead of nine. Even the pandemic didn't slow them down. During the interview process, Joshua and Matt said they were open to fostering children ten years and older. Many foster parents only consider younger children, creating a significant need for placing teenagers. So, four days after being licensed, the couple got a call asking if they were ready to foster.

Marcus* was 12 when he came into Joshua and Matt's home. He had been removed from his home while his mother worked through substance abuse issues. Marcus did not identify as LGBTQ+, and it didn't matter.

"We realized we wanted to provide and care for those children that needed someone to love them, exactly as they are," Joshua says. "We want to be a family that can help them find security and love by being who they are."

The couple relied on open, honest communication with Marcus to help him navigate his new world. At first, Marcus's mother wasn't allowed in-person visits, so Joshua and Matt arranged phone conversations between mother and son. They coordinated with Marcus's mother when she was able to meet face-to-face and invited her to Thanksgiving for a family celebration. The couple realizes the unique disorientation children placed into foster care experience: with their foundation removed from under them, they're expected to develop a relationship with strangers.

"Children in foster care have experienced a lot of things, and we can't add to it," Matt says.

A few months after Marcus arrived, Joshua and Matt got another call. Would the couple who agreed to care for teenagers consider a 1- and 2-year-old brother and sister? Matt and Joshua said yes and quickly began moving furniture to accommodate the smaller children. The new, blended foster family was also an adjustment, as any parent who has experienced the difference between connecting with a teenager and caring for a toddler can attest.

Joshua and Matt slowly gained the trust of the young siblings. From the beginning, they made sure conversations with the siblings were at eye level to make them feel more engaged. The couple also developed a relationship with their mother, who, like Marcus's mother, was taking seriously the work she had to do to be reunited with her children.

Having small children in the house was also a change for Marcus, who had never been around little ones and claimed he wasn't a fan of toddlers. Matt and Joshua worked to maintain consistent values and messages for both Marcus and the siblings, and Marcus quickly adapted to being a big brother.

"They look up to him like an older brother," Matt says, and Joshua adds, "Their sun rises and sets with Marcus. They climb on him, and he swings them around."

The couple recently learned about three siblings who are up for adoption, ages 10, 11, and 12. Joshua and Matt were notified last month that they were approved for adoption.

In the two years since they discussed what their family would look like, Joshua and Matt have had an intense experience in parenting. Like any parent, things didn't always go as planned, but they love each of their foster children for exactly who they are.

"After all the forms, training, and preparation, you will still feel like you're doing it wrong. You'll feel like you're failing, sometimes daily," Joshua says. "But then that precious moment happens when you get your first hug, or 'I love you,' and your heart will break. You will cry and know you're on the right path."

If you connected with Joshua and Matt's story and are interested in providing a loving home for kids just as they are, arrange a conversation with a member of our foster care team

*Name changed to protect privacy