FINDLAY, Ohio — According to Ohio Foster, Adoption, and Kindship Care there are nearly 16,000 children in the Ohio foster care system.
While Ohio does have families that can take in some of these children, there are only around 6,000 foster parents are in Ohio with open hearts and homes for children at this time.
The need definitely exceeds the number of homes available, and SAFY of Findlay Foster and Adoption Agency has found that some of its harder-to-place children — through no fault of the child — are having an even harder time during the pandemic.
Estrella Alvarez, SAFY's Foster Parent Recruiter, said LGBTQ children are difficult to place sometimes and that just means, SAFY needs more foster parents.
"Kids just want to feel safe. So, if a child is not feeling safe because of their orientation, we need to work as a community to find somewhere for that child to feel safe," Alvarez said.
National data with the Human Rights Campaign found LGBTQ youth are actually over-represented in the foster care system, meaning the percentage of LGBTQ youth in foster care is larger than the percentage of LGBTQ youth in the general population.
Alvarez explained that SAFY's main goal is making sure every child feels welcomed and loved by their family. Families come in different forms, heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, single adults, retirees — she said representation matters but showing up is truly the expectation.
Foster dad, William Grose, is a gay single parent. He noted that in the eight years since he began fostering, back in April of 2013, he made sure every child that has come to him has felt accepted — no matter what.
"God created me. He doesn't create junk. So, we're all in his image and just because I'm gay doesn't mean it's right or wrong for everybody. I mean it's me," Grose said.
Additionally, Grose runs the LGBTQ Spectrum of Findlay group that meets at The Loft. He said whatever a child's orientation is, and whether a child is biologically or otherwise gifted to you as a parent, your job is just to understand and love them.
"Getting these children to open up, express themselves, sometimes we don't like how they express but that comes with the territory. I mean that's just it," Grose noted.
Alvarez said SAFY does offer classes to parents if they have questions about their child's orientation. But, the goal along with creating open-mindedness and understanding, is just creating a safe space for children who need homes and someone to love them.
"A child feeling safe in their orientation is equally as important as a child feeling secure in their education, feeling secure at home, feeling secure in having enough food to eat. Those are all basic human needs and that's why we need so many more foster parents so that kids can find a place where they feel their needs are met so they can heal prosper and thrive," Alvarez said.
Grose added the most important part of being a parent is making sure a child feels loved, because that's your job.