In February 2020, the United States Supreme Court agreed to decide if private foster care agencies in the U.S. can turn down LGBTQ foster parent applicants under religious objectification. Though a decision from SCOUTS has yet to be made, SOS Children’s Villages Illinois recognizes that at the heart of a healthy foster care family is dedication and compassionate support. It is our belief and practice that diverse single adults and couples provide loving, committed care to the children in our Villages, and offer an important perspective to our Village life. We are proud to welcome LGBTQ Foster Parents into the SOS Illinois family, and invite you to consider taking on this life-changing role.
History of LGBTQ Foster Parents in the U.S.
As SOS Illinois celebrates our 30th Anniversary, so too we celebrate the diverse Foster Parents who have joined our community, serving thousands of children across our three Villages in Chicago and Lockport, Illinois. The history of LGBTQ foster parents is, in some ways, parallel to our own, as we have openly welcomed LGBTQ candidates and staff for the last three decades.
Over the last ten years, many child welfare professionals and agencies alike have begun to welcome LGBTQ parents and families in the fold. As early as the 1960s and 1970s, coalitions and advocates began petitioning for state-wide and national recognition of not only same-sex marriages, but same-sex adoptions and foster care placements. Over a thirty-year span, a growing body of research on LGBTQ parents and their children clearly affirms the ability of LGBTQ individuals and same-sex couples to parent, alleviating myths and false narratives about the negative impact on children raised by LGBTQ parents.
In May 2013, the “Every Child Deserves a Family Act” was introduced to U.S. Congress, but was never enacted. This Act would have stipulated that any organization that facilitates the foster and adoptive care of children and has some form of funding from the federal government could not discriminate against prospective foster or adoptive parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. This stipulation also protected children being fostered or adopted from discrimination based sexual orientation and gender identity. However, as this bill would have only applied to organizations and agencies receiving federal funding, private institutions would still have been able to refuse prospective same-sex adults and couples.
Such push-and-pull of policy has not stopped LGBTQ adults from growing their families through foster care and adoption. By 2020, LGBTQ adults are fostering and adopting at rates higher per capita than those outside of the LGBTQ community. In fact, according to Life Long Adoptions, same-sex parents in the United States are four times more likely than different-sex parents to be raising an adopted or fostered child. Among couples with children under the age of 18 in the home, 13% of same-sex parents have an adopted child, compared to just 3% of different-sex parents.
As we continue to move forward with our own mission, we are committed to supporting and encouraging LGBTQ adults and couples to become part of the SOS Illinois community.
Why Support LGBTQ Foster Parents?
Aside from supporting the civic rights of LGBTQ adults, especially in regards to becoming parents, there are unique advantages to including LGBTQ foster parents within foster care communities.
There are more than 450,000 children and youth currently in foster care in the United States, many with diverse backgrounds, identities, and needs. As such, child welfare and foster care agencies are tasked to recruit an equally diverse pool of families to provide crucial support. In particular, LGBTQ foster parents may provide specialized support for LGBTQ children and teens, who are often overrepresented in the foster care population compared to their peers.
According to recent census research, between 7-27% of all youth in foster care identify with a sexual orientation other than “heterosexual,” creating increased needs for empathetic support.
Additionally, according to AdoptUSKids, “LGBTQ families bring particular strengths to parenting children in foster care, including an ability to identify with difficult feelings of isolation or a sense of being ‘different.’” For those within the foster care system, having a parent that understands what it means to be misunderstood by your peers, targeted for harassment, or under-supported by policy is a major benefit.
Becoming a Foster Parent at SOS Illinois
Joining the diverse Foster Parent community at SOS Illinois offers unique opportunities not available within a traditional foster care model.
One of the things that sets SOS Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages, where up to six children ranging in age from infants to young adults call home.
For our Foster Parents, daily life involves taking care of each child’s diverse needs and schedules. During the COVID-19 health crisis, the dedication of our Foster Parents is even more remarkable, as they have taken on new roles as at-home teachers and tutors, coaches, and more. Applying to join our community today means that you can join this league of extraordinary single adults and couples committed to providing hope and healing to siblings in Illinois foster care. Learn more today on our Foster Parenting page to see if our inclusive community is right for you.