South Bay LGBT Community Targeted for Foster Child Adoptions

A South Bay adoption agency and nonprofit advocacy group plan to reach out to same-sex couples at San Jose Pride this weekend to encourage more of them to adopt.

As part of a national effort to promote foster youth adoptions throughout the country, Raise A Child, Inc. will staff a booth with Campbell adoption agency EMQ Families First to get out the message.

“There’s a need for more adoptive parents,” says Corrine Lightweaver, a projects manger for the nonprofit advocacy group. “And there’s a huge pool of potential parents who aren’t being reached because agencies don’t know how to engage them. They don’t know the right things to say. Maybe it’s awkward for them. That’s where we come in.”

In the June issue of The Atlantic, an article titled “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss” cited research that people in same-sex partnerships tend to be happier and better equipped to raise a family. Unencumbered by traditional gender role expectations, they’re more likely to agree on responsibilities at the outset of a union.

“Same-sex spouses, who cannot divide their labor based on pre-existing gender norms, just approach marriage differently than their heterosexual peers,” Liza Mundy writes. “From sex to fighting, from child-rearing to chores, they must hammer out every last detail of domestic life without falling back on assumptions about who will do what.”

And since they’re not biologically inclined to have an unplanned pregnancy, these people have to go out of their way to become a parent. That extra groundwork makes gay and lesbian couples ideal parental candidates for adoption, the article states.

That’s one reason, of many, that Raise A Child has made a mission of promoting adoption to same-sex couples. The organization—the only one of its kind in California, and possibly the nation—recently teamed up with EMQ adoption to help them reach the South Bay’s LGBT community to encourage the adoption of foster children.

Raise a Child was founded in 2011 when Los Angeles County realized it needed help reaching out to its same-sex population. Richard Valenza, founder of the gay fathers advocacy group Pop Luck Club, answered the call, founding Raise A Child to spearhead the outreach. Since then, it’s expanded to team up with seven California adoption agencies, most recently with EMQ.

“We’re not social workers, we’re advocates for prospective parents,” Lightweaver says.

The nonprofit ran a successful marketing blitz in L.A. County, posting up bus stop ads and billboards promoting gay families to adopt. They’ve recently rolled out a similar campaign in the South Bay. You’ll see ads promoting gay adoptions on the side of the VTA light rail.

“We really want to reach the LGBT parents because you have people who have come together against all odds and who have that kind of experience that they can impart to their kids,” Lightweaver says. “It’s a valuable perspective—what it’s like to be raised in a same-sex parent family, to be a different race from your adopted family. There’s a value in that a lot of children would benefit from.”

On a pragmatic level, there’s also a desperate need for adoptive families. The nation’s foster care system counts 400,000 children, 104,000 of whom may never reunite with their families and need a new home, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The backlog is so great that the average foster child remains in state custody for three years. And once they become 9 or older (43 percent of the total foster kid population), adoption becomes much less likely, says the Council on Adoptable Children.

In 2010, the Pew Charitable Trust reported that some 28,000 kids aged out of foster care never finding a stable home. These kids are 50 percent more likely to become homeless and 30 percent more likely to become incarcerated.

WHAT: Raise A Child at San Jose Pride Festival
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday
WHERE: Discovery Meadow Park, 180 Woz Way in downtown San Jose
INFO: http://www.sanjosepride.com

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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