Welcoming All Families
November 14, 2011 by Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children, Youth & Families Program
Passions have been stirred by the questionable pairing of a story about the Penn State abuse scandal with a piece on gay and lesbian foster/adoptive parents on last Friday’s “To the Point.” But most memorable to me was the stellar participation of John Ireland and Sari Grant – and it’s certainly more significant as we celebrate National Adoption Month. John is an adoptive father and co-founder of Raise a Child, a brilliant adoption recruitment campaign aimed primarily at gay prospective parents. Sari is an administrator for L.A. County’s Department of Child and Family Services and has the daunting task of ensuring that children and youth in L.A.’s foster care system are placed in loving, permanent families. I am proud to add that L.A. County is one of the few public child welfare agencies that has participated with, and earned a seal of recognition from, HRC’s All Children—All Families initiative for implementing LGBT inclusive policies and practices.
Both John and Sari put this important issue in perspective and reminded us what is at stake if agencies don’t welcome qualified LGBT foster and adoptive families - there are currently 107,000 children and youth in foster care in this country, and many will “age out” before they know what it’s like to have a forever home. There is no longer a debate among leading child welfare professionals, like Sari, about “whether” LGBT individuals or couples can or should be parents. The 20-plus years of research and the thousands of real success stories—perhaps the family next door—put to rest any questions about our ability and capacity to be good parents. The only question is how we get the word out to our community that they are needed, that they are welcome, that the 107,000 waiting children want a parent or parents who will love and support them and typically don’t discriminate against potential LGBT families.
How do we convince other states and counties to follow L.A.’s lead and become truly welcoming to our families? How do we tell John Ireland’s story to the thousands of LGBT folks who have an interest in adopting a child but who are worried that they may be treated unfairly? This is the work of our All Children—All Families initiative, engaging foster care and adoption agencies in improving their practice, becoming more culturally competent, opening their doors to all qualified adults. The result is in the best interest of children—a larger pool of families and a greater chance that foster children and youth will enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at home—their own, real home. We applaud John and Sari for speaking the truth on behalf of children and for shining light on the real need we have to find loving, committed families for children, and sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status are not the determinants of good parenting nor the criteria by which applicants are judged. If you have thought about being a foster or adoptive parents, you are needed! Find an adoption agency in your community now.
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