Celebrating Foster Parenting in Michigan
May 5, 2014 by Guest contributor
The following post comes from Kristen McGraw, a licensing/recruitment specialist at Hands Across the Water, an HRC-recognized leader in supporting and serving LGBT families based in Ann Arbor, MI.
It has been an exciting month for LGBT couples in Michigan. For just one day, same-sex marriage was legal in this state. Here in Washtenaw County, some of county clerk’s staff opened the office for some lucky couples on that special Saturday. Of course, the legal system shut things down pretty quickly and it was over as fast as it had begun. However, all of this led to a ramped up LGBT Wedding Expo with a whopping 80 vendors to help LGBT couples spend their money on a lavish wedding. I was there hosting the information table from Hands Across the Water (HATW) because, for many, if you’re getting married, then children are soon to follow.
There was a party-like atmosphere at the show with DJs blasting the music and the most unique fashion show that I have ever seen. According to organizer, Jan Stevenson, usually the fashion show just features brides. This time around she sent couples down the runway. Everyone was holding hands and taking advantage of the openness of the event to steal a kiss or two. Many of the couples I spoke to were sure that building a family was in their future. Others just enjoyed thinking about the possibility.
LGBT couples have found that foster care is a wonderful route to parenthood. It is affordable and often leads to adoption. Foster parenting provides the opportunity to help a child who may have never known what a healthy and happy home looks and feels like. A foster parent’s primary job is to provide a home for the child while the birth family works toward reunification of their family. If healing the birth family is unsuccessful, the child will become available for adoption.
The state of Michigan is facing a shortage of foster parents and the laws are favorable to same-sex couples. Each potential foster family must complete the licensing process (usually that takes two to six months). HATW provides 12 hours of free training to educate families on the background of the children and possible behavioral challenges. Applicants need to provide documentation detailing finances, medical health, and any past involvement with law enforcement. (Yes, this process is challenging – but it is also so rewarding.) Both partners are licensed as foster parents and share an equal responsibility for the children.
The laws in Michigan are currently set up to enable one parent in a same-sex relationship to adopt a child. The LGBT community is hopeful that this law will change soon and allow both parents to adopt a child. The process is free, the training is free and the benefits are many.
This May, HRC Is proud to celebrate National Foster Care Month by honoring the leaders at child welfare agencies that are committed to improving outcomes for LGBTQ youth, the LGBTQ foster youth themselves, and the foster families supporting them. Stay tuned to HRC blog throughout the month for more foster care stories.
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