Children come into foster care because of neglect, abuse or their family’s inability to care for them. Those who identify as LGBTQ have an added layer of challenges to contend with. At JCCA, our staff has worked diligently to bring affirmation and understanding for our LGBTQ clients. We’ve been fortunate to recruit foster parents who provide a truly compassionate and nurturing environment for all kids. One of these parents is Sharon Adams, an extraordinary, dedicated foster mother who has worked with LGBTQ children for 17 years.
Danielle*, a 17-year-old young woman who identifies as gay, came to Sharon’s home in November 2016. Angry and defiant, Danielle came into care after repeated episodes of running away from home. According to JCCA’s Naomi Raih, it was Sharon’s support of Danielle’s sexuality and gender expression that transformed Danielle’s attitude and relationships with her mother and peers.
“There are a lot of homeless, hurting LGBTQ kids. I’ve cared for many gay children and know that we have to treat them as individuals—everyone deserves to be understood and loved. We all need to have open minds and hearts… after all, nobody can choose who they love. I tell my kids that we have to treat everyone with kindness and respect.” This kindness and respect is what creates a bond of trust between Sharon and the young people in her care.
“When Danielle came to me, she was used to running around on her own in the streets,” Sharon explains. “I sat down and talked with her and her friends and listened to their problems. She learned that she could tell me anything and I wouldn’t judge her. Now she comes home on time, doesn’t go AWOL anymore, and hopes to return to her mother in Arizona this summer.”
Sharon helps Danielle talk through her problems and develop healthy relationships. “I used to sit up with Danielle at night when she would cry over her fears and problems with a girlfriend. But I’ve talked a lot to both her and her girlfriend, and things are much better now. She’s a good kid. We do many things together: we take walks, go out to dinner, or see a movie. But the main thing is to try to understand and be supportive.”
“It’s great for me to see these young people become happy in their hearts and to put smiles on their faces. I love helping them to be their better selves–I want to make Danielle understand that she is somebody, that she can achieve greatness. And I’m glad that I’m helping her return to her mom, and getting them back on the right track.”
Sharon is not just a positive influence on her charges. “I speak to other foster parents and tell them that we’re all God’s children. We can’t choose who we love, and it shouldn’t make a difference in the way we’re treated. Fortunately, things have changed a lot for LGBTQ children in the past 17 years—agencies like JCCA have made a big difference.”
*Not her real name.