In this “Let Love Define Family®” series installment for Huffington Post Queer Voices, RaiseAChild contributing writer, Danielle Lescure, shares insight of one military couple’s dedication and determination to helping LGBT youth of the foster system.
On June 8, 2015, Deasia Johnson and Nikki Dismuke-Johnson made history when they became the first same sex couple to wed in the U.S. territory of Guam, two weeks before the Supreme Court ruling legalized same sex marriage nationwide.
“The funny thing is, the day we got married, we were in jeans and a t-shirt, we just went to get our marriage license; we didn’t plan on getting married that day,” said Deasia. “But they ended up telling us that we could; so we went ahead and got married.”
It was also in Guam that the couple began researching the possibility of becoming foster parents.
Introduced online through a mutual friend, the military couple first communicated via email while Deasia, 28, was stationed in Greece and Nikki, 38, in New Orleans. They were finally able to meet in person in 2013 when Deasia traveled to Mississippi, but both knew before that meeting they wanted to spend their lives together. Initially, having children wasn’t part of their long-term plan.
“Neither one of us wanted kids,” said Nikki.
“But I always had this thought in my head that I always wanted to foster,“ said Deasia.
So what changed?
“As we get older, we realize that things we didn’t want when we were younger are things that we want when we get older,” said Nikki. “You know, things change. Maturity is the main thing.”
Deasia added, “And I think in our relationship, we always felt like we have so much love to give. Why not help out those who maybe aren’t getting that type of love and care.”
Though their quest to foster began in Guam, their time in the territory was limited. Once relocated to San Diego in August of 2015, they began the process in earnest. Researching agencies on their own, and then working with RaiseAChild, they signed on with Koinonia Family Services. On July 1st of this year, they not only completed their certification, but also got their current foster placement: A 14-year-old transgender youth.
While their home is open to any child needing a safe haven, they have made helping older kids and LGBT youth one of their main priorities.
“We wanted to focus on the older kids because there are so many people who are not willing to accept the older kids let alone someone being from the LGBT family,” said Deasia. “Older kids, people tend to forget that they’re getting ready to go into the world. They’re our future. They’re the ones who need to be molded and groomed the most this late in life. Because a high percentage of children who age out of foster care end up on the streets or in prison, this is the age where they need someone to wrap them in their arms and let them know that there is a chance for them.”
Of the many gifts Deasia and Nikki have to offer the children placed in their care, one of the most vital is an understanding of what it’s like to grow up in the LGBT community, the struggle of self-acceptance, and the need for support. And they’re grateful for the steadfast support system of their own friends and families.
“We’re able to give those tools to our child,” said Deasia. “I think the child feels more comfortable with us as well because we are an LGBT family, so I think that it just made it that much easier.”
The couple stresses patience, not just in the process of becoming foster parents, but also when dealing with a foster child who has experienced rejection.
“In any instance, they think if they mess up that you’re automatically going to send them back, and the biggest thing is to love them through that and to let them know that you still care about them. That you are disappointed in what they did and not who they are,” said Deasia.
Because there is so much need, this parental pair encourage others to consider fostering, believing “that there is so much love in people’s hearts; they are just unsure how to express it.”
And though all foster parents face the possibility of a placement only being in their lives for a brief time, Deasia emphasizes that the powerful difference a loving home can make in a child’s life far outweighs the heartache of losing them.
“Even your own child is going to leave your home at some given time and you’re never going to be prepared for that child to leave,” she said. “The same thing as fostering. Whether your child is with you for one week or whether your child is with you for eleven years, at some given time they’re gonna go on to another adventure, you could say, in life. But the smallest bit of impact in that child’s life is better than no impact at all. Even for the smallest amount of time, when they come home with you, that’s their home and they finally feel like they have something, even if it’s just for one night.”
With plans to eventually have their own child as well as adopt, Deasia and Nikki put no limits on how big their family may become. Any remaining doubts about adding kids to their lives have long since been erased and replaced by the daily rewards reaped from opening their hearts and home to children in need of acceptance and sanctuary, however temporary.
“Just being able to love someone else who needs it and seeing that they appreciate it,” said Nikki. “You can see that you’re appreciated and loved in return too.”
“And a lot of times, you know, you get this piece of paper and you can read about them and all their flaws and everything that’s supposedly wrong with them. But the person that you read on paper to the person that blossoms in your home, it seems like two totally different people. You would never know it’s the same person,” said Deasia.
“So just seeing the change in that child’s life and the hope that they have for their own future is just amazing,” she continued. “We have a straight A student in our home right now and if you would have read it on paper you would have never thought that this is the same person. Straight A’s across the board, AP classes in high school and doing excellent. Just seeing them happy and not in that state they were in initially, it makes it all worth it.”
Have you thought about building a family through fostering or adoption? RaiseAChild is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 415,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. RaiseAChild recruits, educates and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving, and permanent homes. Take the Next Step to Parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.org or call us at (323) 417-1440.