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This gay couple is encouraging other LGBTQ+ people to become foster parents

tennessee gay couple foster parents Travis Michael VanZant kids backpack stuffed bunny
via Youth Villages; Shutterstock Creative

“All the kids who come into our house have left an impact on us," say Travis and Michael VanZant, who have fostered 20 children thanks to an agency in Tennessee.

Travis and Michael VanZant decided that they wanted to become parents ten years ago.

The couple's dream of growing their family wouldn't become a reality until 2020, when the two encountered a booth at a Pride festival in Nashville, Tennessee. It was there that Travis and Michael connected with Youth Villages, one of 22 foster care agencies in the state, and registered with the group to become foster parents.

“We discussed kind of our options of the different agencies out there and what exactly we wanted to do,” Travis recently told WSMV Nashville. “We felt we could better relate to the kids who came through our home because we’ve been through experiences.”

The couple has since opened their home to 20 children and adopted three, including brothers Andrew and Lucas, who first came to them in 2021. The couple fostered the two brothers for 434 days before they officially adopted them on March 25, 2022.

Prospective foster parents in Tennessee must be at least 21 years of age, and have the space and time for children. They are required to undergo around 10 hours of online training, including classes on CPR and medication, after which the state will perform three home visits. Youth Villages provides an additional 15 hours of trauma response training to its parents.

The work of foster parents like the VanZants is especially important now, as Tennessee recently passed a law permitting anti-LGBTQ+ adults to foster and adopt LGBTQ+ minors. HB2169 and SB1738 explicitly ban the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) from requiring parents to “affirm, accept, or support any government policy regarding sexual orientation or gender identity that conflicts with the parent's sincerely held religious or moral beliefs," in direct risk to the children.

Ultimately, the VanZants just want the best for every child that passes through their home, as Michael said "all the kids who come into our house have left an impact on us." The reverse is certainly true, as three of their foster children have graduated high school, two have gone on to college, and one has graduated college.

“Sometimes I get backlash. ‘They need a mother figure, they need a father figure, they need this, they need that,’” Travis said. “No, they don’t. They need love [and] structure. That’s all they need.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.