Baby Maybe?

May 22, 2013 in inQueery

“Family isn’t what it looks like; it’s what it feels like” – Doni DeBolt, executive director of AASK, daughter of the organization’s founders

For the past 40 years, Adopt A Special Kid (AASK) has been helping people form families in the Bay Area by connecting children with would-be parents. Since 1973, the organization has placed roughly 3,400 children in permanent, forever homes. The parents and the children that make up these homes are often “non-traditional,” meaning there is a conscious effort on the part of the organization to serve older, biracial, and LGBT individuals and couples as they create a family through the foster and adoption process.

AASK owes a great deal of its success to the staff’s support of the organization. Social workers employed by the organization are highly trained and offer one-on-one support to the new or prospective parent(s). A point of pride for the organization is its dedication to the principle that one social worker should guide the adoptive parent(s) through the process from beginning to end. By doing so, the individuals adopting are better able to communicate with their social worker through this difficult process.

To serve the community even more effectively, the organization offers a 24/7 parent crises call line, Camp Always, a summer camp for the children fostered or adopted through AASK, as well as a scholarship program for the children once they reach college age. Tina Phillips, a representative of AASK, summarized the organization’s sense of community by saying, “we hold your hand through the entire process.” The individual attention the parents receive at AASK helps them navigate the ups and downs of parenting.

AASK, since its inception, has been dedicated to helping members of the LGBT community fulfill their desire to become parents. Unfortunately, this is an option that many within the community feel is denied to them. Phillips speaks to this when she says,

So many LGBT people feel like they cannot become parents and [are] excluded from that dream. We are working hard to do outreach to the queer community so they know they do have options and opportunities.

While there was an estimated 110,000 children living in same-sex households in 2012—a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000—these children make up less than 1% of the total child population in the U.S. Parents that identify as LGBT and children with an LGBT parent can claim a minority status. There is also a certain amount of legal ambiguity that comes along with being in a family that began with an LGBT couple because of the relative newness of the practice. However, as Phillips alludes to, AASK and organizations like it have a duty to the children first and foremost:

AASK helps people from all walks of life, some who didn’t imagine they could be parents, to become the most successful parents they can be and help their children reach their fullest potential.

By establishing these children in loving, stable homes, they are given an opportunity to succeed and, most importantly, be a part of a loving family. The makeup of that family, what it looks like, is unimportant in comparison to the needs of a child.

One LGBT family, made up of Sara, Felicia, and their two sons, highlight the importance of the children over all else when going through the adoption process. The family grew with the addition of the two boys, who were adopted by the couple through AASK. When asked about their experience and decision to foster the two children—two boy cousins who entered the couple’s lives at the same time—Sara referred to the choice as one that felt “easy and right” to make. Their adoption experience illustrates the child-focused nature of the adoption process. While there can be challenges to LGBT adoption, on a personal as well as legal level, speaking with this family, one does not get a sense of that struggle. This is possibly due to the length of time: the adoption process was something they went through a few years ago. Or this may reflect the strides made in this area. LGBT adoption is becoming more widely visible and accepted by the general public. Also, after an individual or couple decides to adopt, they find that the process is focused on the child, not the parent(s). AASK makes a conscious effort to find the best, most loving home for the child, regardless of the makeup of that family. Because of this, it is best to take the advice of Sara and Felicia, two people that have gone through adoption, and “believe in magic” even if the process seems difficult. Adoption is difficult, but with support, effort, and a little magic, there is no reason why the dream of parenthood cannot be fulfilled by anyone that chooses to accept that responsibility.

For more information about AASK:
Informational workshops usually held the first Tuesday of the month 7-9pm at 201 Edgewater Road, #103 Oakland, CA 94621

Amanda Luna is a regular contributor to InQueery.
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