Many agencies report COVID-19 slowed the adoption and fostering of children across the country, as the pandemic complicated the process and deterred some potential parents.
Same-sex couples signing up to foster and adopt are helping to lessen the strain on the system, but some LGBTQ+ advocates see a recent Supreme Court decision as a defeat against gay parents.
One couple speaks about why they decided to foster in the midst of the pandemic and why they want their story heard during another debate about same-sex parenting.
As gay men growing up in small towns, there’s so much Michael and Travis VanZant never expected to see in their lives. For Travis, his world started changing 10 years ago.
“When I was in the military, of course, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was at that stage it was being overturned,” he said.
“We met on Plenty of Fish six, seven years ago,” Michael added. “Almost immediately knew he was my person.”
Six months later, on June 26, 2015, Michael and Travis saw something else they never expected in their lives.
“The Supreme Court had made it legal nationwide,” said Michael.
They headed straight to the county clerk to become the first gay couple to be married in Montgomery County, Tennessee.
Now comes something else Michael and Travis never expected in their lives.
“I told Travis, ‘I think I want kids now,’” said Michael.
The two are foster dads.
“It took him 10, 10 seconds to be on the phone with every foster agency within a 100-mile radius,” Michael said while laughing.
“Very scary at first,” Travis added. “Course, going from no kids to having kids, that’s like every couple.”
The decision to foster felt even more important to Michael and Travis starting in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.
With people isolated, agencies across the country report the number of calls of interest from potential parents slowed, with unemployment rates up and many just hesitant to bring someone new into their home. COVID-19 also closed courts in the spring of 2020, and social distancing complicated adoption training. Michael and Travis saw this as the right time to become foster parents, just like so many other gay couples.
According to the US Census, there are more than 181,000 same-sex households with children in the home. Of those numbers, nearly 21% have adopted children in them. The American Adoptions agency said about 4% of adopted children and 3% of foster children are with same-sex parents.
Adoptions and fostering by gay parents are being discussed by the country again. After Philadelphia refused a contract with a Catholic adoption agency, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the agency that refused to place foster children with same-sex couples.
Other organizations are welcoming potential same-sex parents. Michael and Travis are fostering through Youth Villages, an organization that experienced less interest in fostering during the pandemic. The organization continues to work with families of all backgrounds.
“There’s agencies that deny same-sex couples the right to adopt when there’s always kids needing homes,” said Travis. “I don’t quite understand it.”
There’s so much two men from small towns thought they’d never see, never experience. Together, they said they’ve watched the world change and watched their own world change into one of the framed Minion pictures, crayons, and construction paper.
“When I was younger, I never thought these things would be possible, and it feels great, feels fantastic,” said Michael. “I love being a dad.”