A former foster child adopted by two fathers after being abandoned for his sexuality has urged Congress not to stand in the way of loving LGBT+ families like his.
he bill would prohibit any federally-funded child welfare services from discriminating against prospective parents based solely on their sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status, as well as the sexuality or gender identity of the child involved.
This law is critical for young people like Weston, who entered the foster care system at 14 when his parents neglected him for coming out as gay. He experienced a year of hospitalisations, shelters and foster home placements before finally, at 15, he received the amazing news: “I was going to be adopted.”
“I have since learned that many, many LGBT+ foster youth never get that news,” he told lawmakers.
Weston was lucky: he found a loving home with two fathers and six siblings, who gave him the love and support he needed to grow into his authentic self.
“My dads showed me what it was like to witness a true marriage and live a normal life, expressing the meaning of family,” he said. “Before I lived with them I never pictured myself marrying someone or even having a family, but they proved to me that anything is possible.
“Without them in my life constantly supporting and encouraging me I don’t know where I would be, or even if I would be alive today. I finally found a home where I can live my authentic self.”
He stressed that in the conversation about same-sex couples fostering and adopting, all too often the message of giving needy children “safety, stability and love” is forgotten.
Why keep qualified parents from giving children the lives they deserve but never imagined?
“I urge committee member to focus on that mission, not on the personal beliefs of adults,” Weston said.
“If it wasn’t for my two dads taking a chance on me and helping me embrace my sexual orientation, the colour of my skin and who Weston is, I wouldn’t be here to share my story.
“When a child enters the foster care system they just want to find a family that loves them unconditionally and supports them continuously. Why keep qualified parents from giving children the lives they deserve but never imagined? Because that is exactly what my fathers did for me.”
Many states like Florida, Utah, Mississippi, Nebraska and Utah have policies that directly disadvantage LGBT+ and unmarried parents, leaving children vulnerable to the individual biases of agencies and case workers.
As well as increasing adoption rates, proponents of the ECDF bill say it would decrease risk factors for youth in foster care, yielding an annual cost savings of $3-$6 billion.
But most importantly, the legislation is about putting the needs of the child before all else.
“We should find more loving families like my dads that can be affirming of all kids in care,” Weston told members of Congress. “I want to ask all policy makers, foster care parents and social workers to take the time to put yourself in our shoes and think about what you wanted as a child.
“LGBT+ youth aren’t going anywhere, we’re here, and we’re asking to be heard and loved for who we are.”