The Untold Story of Queer Foster Families


When Don Ward was a child, in Seattle, in the nineteen-sixties, his mother, each December, would hand him the Sears catalogue and ask him to pick Christmas gifts. By the time his parents filed for divorce, the catalogue had become a refuge, for Ward, from their shouting matches. Eventually, instead of looking at toys, he began turning to the men’s underwear section, fascinated by the bodies for reasons he didn’t really understand. Soon, he started noticing the tirades that his father occasionally launched into about gay people. “I think all those queers ought to be lined up and shot,” Ward remembers his father saying.

“It was a bit of a lonely childhood,” Ward told me. After the divorce went through, he saw his parents under the same roof only twice. The first time was in court, when they fought over custody of Ward and his two brothers. (Ward’s mother won.) The second time was at a youth services facility, after a close acquaintance outed Ward to his parents, and, unable to tolerate a gay son, they mutually signed him over to the state of Washington. Ward was barely fifteen.