The Miami Herald profiles a young man who found himself in the foster care system when he was about 13-years-old after his mother rejected him because he is gay. He experienced several dozen foster care facilities in which adults couldn’t relate to him and other children could be brutal.
By the time the boy found a gay foster parent in Fort Lauderdale, he was a 17-year-old dropout addicted to drugs. He credits his foster father with turning his life around and taking him to Narcotics Anonymous.
Many gay foster teenagers never find a good home.
Recognizing the gap in service, Broward County’s foster care agency, ChildNet, has contracted with the National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP) to recruit and train foster parents to take in gay and lesbian foster children.
Although Florida bans gay adults from adopting, the state does allow them to take in foster children.
During the past five years, gay rights and child welfare groups have researched the experience of gay foster youth. What they found was horrific.
“Adults would say, ‘If you weren’t gay, you wouldn’t get beat up’,” said Flor Bermudez, an attorney for Lambda Legal in New York. “Or they would be placed in very religious foster homes where foster parents would take away their clothes . . . and have them go to church every Sunday so they would change.”
“Sometimes social workers know a child is gay but don’t tell the foster family,” said Rob Woronoff, a consultant and former GLBT director of the Child Welfare League of America.
“A kid comes out, and the foster parents say, `Nobody told us this kid was gay,’ ” he said.
Things are going well for the young man and his foster dad.
”For Father’s Day, he sent me a card,” Dad said. “He said it was the first time he had the chance to send a Father’s Day present.”
Photo: Joe Kaleita / AP