A Foster Family Story
by PFP parent Leigh Braden
On September 21, 2017 I attended a foster parent recruitment meeting at the William Way Center co-hosted by the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs and Philly Family Pride.
This meeting was held to recruit potential foster parents from the LGBTQ community who would provide loving homes to LGBTQ youth. I attended as a representative of A Second Chance Inc., an organization I work with that specializes in kinship care.
The organizers of the meeting had asked a panel of folks to speak about their experiences and share resources with the group – a foster care agency, LGBTQ foster parents and an 18-year old LGBT-identified youth named Frank.
The room fell silent to hear this soft-spoken, sweet, sad kid talk about how hard it had been for him in foster care, how he came to America from Indonesia fleeing persecution for being gay and how he had no family and wanted to be in a family.
He talked about his love for music and how he had to sell his keyboard when he went into care and how he missed feeling comfortable and affirmed. I could feel tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I approached Frank after the meeting and asked if we could have lunch together suggesting that maybe I could help him with this situation and find hiim a better home.
Frank agreed and that same week we met. He told me more of his story and how he was in an accelerated high school program in Indonesia and graduated from school early, about the circumstances he lived in while in Indonesia and the kind of fear and discrimination he felt as a sexual minority.
His father died when he was 4 years old and his mother plummeted into poverty and could not take care of her children any more. We talk for a long time. By the end of the lunch, I knew that we were the foster family that Frank needed. I knew that we could give him an affirming home.
My wife Sophie and I talked to our 8 year-old son who loved the idea of having a big brother. We had Frank over for dinner and the decision was made to offer to be his foster family. He said yes and I sprang into action.
We were certified in a month to be foster parents for Frank. This is very fast, but as a person who works in the field I knew exactly what we needed to do and how to get it done quickly.
Frank moved into our home October 27, 2017.
He has integrated into our family and we care about him. He is neither soft-spoken nor sad anymore. He is a teenager, which is fun and frustrating all at the same time.
Frank is applying to colleges for the fall of 2018. I am teaching him how to drive, and Sophie and I are learning how to parent a teenager. Every day Frank sits at the piano in our home and makes beautiful music. We have high hopes for him and his future.
If you live in Pennsylvania and are interested in becoming a foster parent for LGBTQ youth, contact Leigh at email@example.com.
by Sandra Telep
Nearly a decade ago, when my partner and I first began to look into what our options were for starting a family, I was looking to connect with other LGBTQ families. I wanted to hear first hand experiences, get advice from parents who had walked this road, and connect with other prospective parents. Other LGBTQ families weren’t easy to find in the smaller city we resided in at the time, so I sought out community online.
Thanks to message boards I was able to connect with other families. From there I discovered a community of bloggers and started my own blog. I loved reading along with other families’ stories and sharing a bit of our own journey. These virtual friends were my tribe as I battled infertility, grieved losses, rejoiced in a long-awaited pregnancy and welcomed our first child into the world. Many of these friendships grew so strong and important that we made plans to meet face to face and introduce our families to each other, sometimes traveling significant distances to see the kids that we had dreamed about together all those years ago now playing together. Blogging for LGBTQ Families has been a lifeline for me.
Now, we live in Philadelphia, a much larger city, in a very LGBTQ friendly neighborhood with our six year old and three year old. We are surrounded by other LGBTQ families and our children have never known anything but a community of friends and neighbors made of all different types of families. I know how valuable that is to both us as parents, and our children as they come to understand the world we live in. This is one of the main reasons I serve on the board of Philadelphia Family Pride.
I know how lucky I was to begin my parenthood journey in the age of the internet…but I still had to search for and build my community. Philadelphia Family Pride helps build and nurture the community of LGBTQ families in Philly through social events and valuable educational resources for prospective parents and families. Our annual Family Matters Conference includes workshops on legal issues, financial planning, planning for parenthood, and social justice. We look forward to spending time with our friends at some of our favorite social events like camping, the aquarium, Smith Playground, the summer picnic or hiking. PFP really has been a treasure to our family.
Just recently I sat on a panel for one of our Maybe Baby group classes, and I was struck, looking around the room at the group of prospective parents. How amazing would it have been when we were researching parenthood to attend a class where we could talk to foster parents, reproductive technology specialists, parents that used known and anonymous donors, surrogacy agency representatives and other people trying to figure out how to build their families – all in one room! I love being a part of an organization that connects LGBTQ families with resources and each other.
Therapy Center of Philadelphia, in partnership with Philadelphia Family Pride, is launching a new eight-week information and support group for LGB women and transgender communities considering parenthood. It starts March 30th and will run weekly on Monday nights through May 18. A similar group for cisgender gay and bisexual men is in the works for another location in the fall.
“Starting a family as a queer or trans* person can be overwhelming and scary. The Maybe Baby group will help members learn about resources, share experiences, and support the process as they move along their journey into parenthood. TCP is thrilled to finally be able to offer a group like this in Philadelphia” said Alison Gerig, TCP’s executive director.
Maybe Baby offers an 8-week support group experience that will provide information from legal, financial, and medical experts, as well as emotional, social and community support. Members will come out with a sense of their options, how to navigate the process as a queer or trans* person, and connection with others on a similar journey.
“Our prospective parent information sessions at our past annual conferences have been very popular. This group is an attempt to provide a more comprehensive approach than can be done in a few hours in one day,” said Philadelphia Family Pride Executive Director Stephanie Haynes.
Meetings will take place on Monday evenings from 6-7:30pm at the Therapy Center of Philadelphia office at 1315 Walnut Street from March 30 to May 18. The group will be co-facilitated by Monique Walker, PhD, MFT and Julie Lipson, MA, MT-BC.
Cost for participation for the full eight weeks is $240/couple ($120/individual) for Philadelphia Family Pride members or $320/couple ($160/individual) for non-PFP members. Those not already PFP members can join for $25/year on our web site www.phillyfamilypride.org.
To register or for more information contact the Therapy Center of Philadelphia at 215-567-1111.
Therapy Center of Philadelphia nurtures individual well-being and personal growth by providing high-quality, affordable psychotherapeutic services in a feminist environment for women and transgender communities. We create this feminist environment through supporting client empowerment, collaboration, a de-emphasis on diagnosis, and on the recognition that the way in which we experience oppression is influenced and shaped by our concurrent identities.
Philadelphia Family Pride is a non-profit membership organization for LGBT parents, prospective parents and their children in the greater Philadelphia region.