In this first Huffington Post Queer Voices “Let Love Define Family®” series installment of the new year, RaiseAChild Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Rich Valenza, tackles the most common concerns holding LGBT people back from becoming foster and/or adoptive parents.
Since founding RaiseAChild, I have had the great fortune to travel our nation to meet and speak with thousands of LGBT people curious about becoming foster and adoptive parents. Over these five years, I have learned to anticipate a list of common questions about building a family through the foster and adoption process. I do my best to correct myths and provide truths about the three most common questions involving the costs, the risks, and the children. However, it is the more private questions and concerns that some LGBT people hold back that I want most to address.
Ten years ago, the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law published research showing that 50 percent of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians wanted to raise a child. The study went on to estimate that two million GLB people were interested in adopting. So today, with the number of children in the nation’s foster care system growing to 425,000, a continuing upward trend over the past three years, the RaiseAChild team constantly challenges ourselves to improve methods to encourage and support more people in our LGBT community to build more families for these children.
All prospective parents need to know the benefits that go with becoming a foster and/or fost-adopt parent. In most states, the costs of fostering-to-adopt are absolutely minimal. Most often, related expenses are reimbursed to parents; the children are covered with health insurance, and usually continue to receive monthly financial assistance for their basic living expenses. Truth is that there are very real risks in every method of family building, but adoptions are finalized through court systems to protect the child and to provide legal status for the newly formed family.
At RaiseAChild past events in Chicago and New York, and again just weeks ago in San Diego and Los Angeles, I have seen some LGBT people struggle to get up the nerve to ask different variations of a very raw, but very similar statement, “I want to help a child by either fostering and/or adopting, but I have my concerns as a LGBT person.”
From there, I asked more questions to make sure that the folks have the time and opportunity to share all their points of concern. I listen, understand, and empathize because I had the same concerns when I adopted my two children ten years ago.
Let us first establish that all good prospective parents are expected to experience some degree of self-doubt about their abilities to manage the responsibilities that come with parenting. In fact, parenthood is such a big life decision that it would be uncommon not to experience a full range of emotions throughout the process including fear, self-doubt, and complete exhilaration. The beauty of becoming a parent through the foster-adoption system is that these families are built very consciously and methodically over a period of time. The process is as intentional as the foster-adoptive families it creates. Here, time allows for the new family to establish a foundation of trust and love and for the new parents to begin to transition from self-doubt to self-confidence.
Because children grow so rapidly, successful parenting involves continual self-assessment of parenting skills and methods. There are no written manuals to fool-proof parenting, so it helps to realize that we are all human. We all can expect that mistakes will be made by both our children and ourselves.
Now, more specifically to LGBT parents, let us not confuse common parenting self-doubts, with self-doubts about being LGBT parents. Understand the following three points and your self-doubts about being an LGBT parent should melt away:
1. Scientifically Proven – Not only have numerous scientific studies proven the value of LGBT parents years ago, but several have actually shown how well children excel when raised by LGBT parents. The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (www.nllfs.org) with 30 years of research is just one very solid example.
2. Truth Eventually Wins – There is no better antidote to fear and ignorance than truth. Rumors and gossip are more quickly extinguished when faced with honesty and openness. So, while all parents should, it is especially true that LGBT parents need to prepare and provide our children and with the tools to speak out for mutual respect and acceptance.
3. Foster Children Need Us – With the numbers of children in foster care rising and numbers of foster homes falling, RaiseAChild has always believed in the most logical approach to solving our nation’s foster care crisis. Our country needs all capable prospective parents to stand up for children, not just a select demographic. The population of foster and homeless children is diverse. In turn, RaiseAChild works to improve outcomes for foster children by building families through community partnerships regardless of race, religion, sexual identity, economic or marital status.
If the Williams Institute study from 2007 still holds true today, and if you might be one of those two million LGBT people who have considered adopting, fostering, or weekend hosting one of more foster children, please contact us at RaiseAChild now. It will be our honor to help mentor and guide you through this family building process. Take the next step to parenthood https://raiseachild.org/take-the-next-step/ with RaiseAChild’s free services. Let us work together and help insure good for foster children and our community in this new year.
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 425,000 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.