In Canada alone, there are approximately 67,000 youth living in care. Many of these young people have experienced severe trauma and will face various early challenges that can include an increased prevalence of special needs, decreased high school graduation rates, and higher unemployment rates. Fortunately, foster parents can provide the safe and stable environment that many of these young people require to heal and move towards building healthy futures.
Amélie and Baharak decided to become foster parents after Amélie’s years spent working directly with youth in the child welfare system. A social worker by trade, Amélie decided that, one day, she would open her own home to kids in need. After meeting her partner, Baharak, she knew the time had come. As members of the LGBTQ community, they’ve had a unique fostering experience, but can still relate their parental journey with many others, regardless of gender or sexual identity. Read more below:
When did you first decide to become foster parents?
When I was a social worker in Montreal, working with newcomers to Canada, I had to place children in care. Often, the reason for placement was that the mother had to go to the hospital for a small surgery or to give birth to another child. I knew these kids that needed placement, and it would break my heart to have to move them with people they didn’t know. I wanted to take them home but simply was not able to. My way of dealing with this, was to promise myself that, one day, I would be able to welcome kids in need of placement into my own home. When Baharak and I met, we merged our dreams and she was happy and committed to opening our home to children. When we applied with the Children’s Aid Society, we had recently moved to Toronto and were looking for a way to get involved in our community. This was the perfect moment to become a foster family.
What’s the best part of being a foster parent?
Knowing that we can offer a safe place to a little life in need is amazing.
The most challenging?
Knowing that some children need protection and the society we live in does not support all parents equally. Structural oppression affects many children.
If you could give one piece of advice about foster parenting, what would it be?
It depends on who’s asking. Listening and seeking to understand the question would be a first step. Just like with kids that come into our care, the first thing we do is try to understand their needs and how to best meet them.
What are some unique challenges that LGBTQ foster and/or adoptive parents face?
We have not yet experienced challenges, as the children that have been placed with us have been under two-and-a-half-years-old, but I would imagine that older children could ask questions about us being a two mom family, which could be challenging to explain. This is similar to the way that friends’ kids have interesting questions that, at times, force us to think about how to explain our family or the fluidity of gender in a kid-friendly way.
Do you think that youth who identify as LGBTQ benefit from having foster parents who also identify as LGBTQ?
Yes, in that there is a certain level of understanding. But, we would not automatically assume that an LGBTQ home would necessarily be better equipped. There are so many other identities and realities to take into consideration.