Thoughts from a gay, single foster parent

Valuing All Families: thoughts from a gay, single foster parent
Posted on 07/19/2019

Having worked nearly two decades in public service and interacting with social service providers regularly, I knew there was a real need for foster/adoptive parents. Also, I had the benefit of growing up with siblings, step siblings and non-biological siblings, and understood that families don’t have to fit into the definition of a “traditional” family.

I’ve always had a close connection with four of my nephews and became involved with minor hockey through them. My interest in watching them play grew quickly into becoming a team manager. There was no issue for neither the kids nor the parents about me being gay. I was “coach Ken” and my hockey family became a regular presence. With kids in my life and knowing that I had the space in my heart and my home, I decided to become a foster/adoptive parent.

It was somewhat strange being the “single parent” at the training sessions, however, both classmates and CAS staff were supportive and inclusive. I was realistic about parenting as a single person. I knew that tweens/teens required a different amount of supervision that would fit with me being on my own. I also knew that this age groups comes with their own challenges. I finished the training feeling confident that I was ready.

When a match was made with a 13 year-old boy named Jack, I was excited to welcome him. The first hurdle was having “the talk” – being open with Jack about my sexual orientation and not hiding who I was. No amount of training could fully prepare me for hearing from Jack during the first weekend that his grandparents warned him to be careful about me being a pedophile. From the very beginning, without ever meeting or talking to me, I was under attack from his biological family. It was a stark reminder that discrimination and small mindedness still exists.

Not only did Jack not care that I was gay, my honesty allowed Jack and I to have open discussions around his questions of sex and sexuality – an important, if awkward, topic to discuss when parenting a teen. Although Jack did not remain with me permanently, we are still in contact and he has positive feelings about his stay with me.  

More recently I fostered Damon, a 12 year-old struggling with his gender identity and sexual orientation. Having fostered Jack made it easier to talk openly with Damon about his struggles and share that I could relate to the experience of growing up gay.

Like any foster parent, I learned lessons along the way. One I’d like to share is that no one is a single or lone parent; you’ve got workers and a mentor in addition to your own family supports. The most positive lesson I’ve learned is that the grown-ups might have hang-ups, but it turns out when it comes to all the colours of the LGBTQ2 rainbow, the kids are all right.

The author is a middle aged single gay man working in the municipal public sector, the favourite uncle, and has been a dually approved foster/adoptive parent with the Children’s Aid of London & Middlesex since 2016.   

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