by Stephen Hug
May is National Foster Care Month, and Family Service of Rhode Island, a statewide non-profit organization, is utilizing the opportunity to raise awareness that LGBTQQI foster parents are needed to provide loving homes for children in need.
“We hope more LGBTQQI Rhode Islanders will step forward to open their hearts and homes,” said Family Service of Rhode Island CEO Margaret Holland McDuff. “We’ve developed a recruitment campaign called #WeTakePrideinAllFamilies, and are thankful Marc Fernandes and Michael Leighton, two former foster parents and now adoptive parents, have helped with this effort, proudly marching with our We Take Pride in All Families banner in last year’s Rhode Island Pride Parade.”
Foster parents are needed for Rhode Island children of all ages, from infants to teenagers. “There’s particularly a need for homes for older children,” said Christine Forsyth, who is a foster mom of two teenagers and clinical director of Family Service of Rhode Island’s foster care program. “Singles, partnered, married, already parenting – all are welcome! Please contact us. We take pride in all families.”
Marc Fernandes and Michael Leighton thought a long time about becoming parents. “A few years after we bought our home we started to discuss the idea of adopting a child. We decided we should start by becoming foster parents to see if we had what it takes to be parents.”
The two men, who were recently married, started fostering a sister and brother, Zendaiya and Jaydais, when the two were nine months old and almost two, respectively. “I will never forget the day they arrived and the way we felt when we first held them,” said Marc. Suddenly having two little children at once was a huge adjustment, but, “We had plenty of support from Family Service of Rhode Island. We really can’t say enough about the support they provided us.”
Today Zendaiya is weeks from turning three and Jaydais will soon be celebrating his fourth birthday. Earlier this year, this foster family officially became an adoptive family.
Marc and Michael feel they haven’t had any issues or challenges with being gay foster, and now adoptive, parents. “We have been very open with our places of employment, neighbors, friends, family, and community,” said Michael. “I feel strongly about being ‘all or nothing,’ and standing proud, being who we are, and knowing in our hearts we are doing a good thing. I think people who have seen us out and about have been very happy for us knowing we are giving these two beautiful children a loving, happy home.”
Potential foster parents go through screening and training before receiving a state license. “We work with you to ensure it’s a good match for you and the involved child or children,” McDuff said. Anyone interested should call the agency’s foster care program at 331-1350 ext. 3305. More information is also available at the agency’s website, www.familyserviceri.org.