Alameda County Received the ACAF Seal of Recognition
November 8, 2011 by Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children, Youth & Families Program
Three years ago the Alameda County’s Department of Child and Family Services, which encompasses Oakland, California, signed HRC’s All Children—All Families pledge of commitment and began the work required to earn the seal of recognition. Today I had the pleasure of presenting the seal to the LGBT working group at Alameda County who, for the past three years stayed focused on their goal and successfully met the ten benchmarks that are the standard for LGBT inclusive, culturally competent policies and practices. I was joined by Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of Family Builders and member of our All Children—All Families National Advisory Council, who adopted her younger daughter from Alameda County 15 years ago.
The seal is an honor for any agency, but for larger public agencies the path to achieving the seal is often challenging; administrators and line staff are managing a number of practice improvement models, dealing with daily crises, staff turnover, scarce financial resources, and changing political winds.
Alameda County is the second county in California, and only the second nationally, to engage with HRC’s All Children—All Families initiative and earn the seal—L.A. County reached this milestone in 2009. We applaud the managers and supervisors of Alameda County who made a commitment to earn the seal and, through the typical ups and downs that define the real world of working with children, youth and families in the foster care system, did not take their eyes off of this important goal.
What motivated them? Well, even in California where joint adoption by same-sex couples is legal, and even in the Bay area where thousands of LGBT individuals and couples reside, there are still barriers that stand between them and the children and youth who are waiting for a permanent family.
While Alameda County has a track record of welcoming and supporting LGBT foster and adoptive parents (as illustrated by Jill’s adoption 15 years ago) they recognized early on that there is always room for improvement, that staff can always benefit from professional training and skills-building to become more effective with the LGBT population, that the overall climate of the agency must send a consistent message of inclusion and affirmation to all families. They saw All Children—All Families as the means to these ends, a framework for reviewing and improving their practice with our community, and engaging the highest level of leadership in the process.
As we celebrate National Adoption Month, and remind ourselves of the ongoing need to find “forever families” for children in foster care, we also celebrate this wonderful accomplishment in Alameda County. The door is now fully open to LGBT individuals and couples who live and work in Oakland, and who are hoping to provide a loving home to the children and youth in their own community. Let’s hope that other counties and states follow the wonderful example of L.A. and Alameda.
The All Children – All Families initiative, launched in 2007, promotes policies and practices that welcome LGBT foster and adoptive parents. The program seeks to enhance LGBT cultural competence among child welfare professionals and educate LGBT people about opportunities to become foster or adoptive parents to waiting children. To date, ACAF has 50 participating agencies across the country, and has awarded 16 seals of recognition. In September HRC launched a “50 state strategy,” with the goal of securing at least one ACAF-recognized adoption agency dedicated to working with LGBT families in every state. More information about the initiative can be found at www.hrc.org/acaf.
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