Con­necti­cut re­cruit­ing LGBT fam­i­lies to adopt, fos­ter kids

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - BY SU­SAN HAIGH

WEST HART­FORD, Conn. — Con­necti­cut’s child wel­fare agency has launched an ini­tia­tive to ac­tively re­cruit mem­bers of the state’s LGBT com­mu­nity to be­come fos­ter and adop­tive par­ents, buck­ing re­cent efforts in some states to cur­tail gay adop­tions.

Demo­cratic Gov. Dan­nel P. Mal­loy said Thurs­day that Con­necti­cut wants to be known as a state that wel­comes and em­braces the LGBT com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing there are 4,300 chil­dren in state care and about half of them likely won’t re­turn to their bi­o­log­i­cal fam­i­lies.

“We just have to get this word out,” Mal­loy said. “We have to get more of our chil­dren placed with our fam­i­lies in our state.”

The Con­necti­cut Depart­ment of Chil­dren and Fam­i­lies’ new out­reach campaign is one of a hand­ful of efforts by state and city gov­ern­ments across the U.S. to en­cour­age gays and les­bians to con­sider be­com­ing adop­tive or fos­ter par­ents. There are sim­i­lar ini­tia­tives in New York City and San Francisco. Ali­son Delper­cio, the Hu­man Rights Foun­da­tion’s deputy di­rec­tor of chil­dren, youth and fam­i­lies pro­gram, said she has seen such re­cruit­ment efforts mostly at a county level or from pri­vate agen­cies. She said it’s un­usual for a large statewide sys­tem to take a proac­tive ap­proach.

Con­necti­cut’s depart­ment plans to work with gay and les­bian or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as the Con­necti­cut Gay and Les­bian Cham­ber of Com­merce and LGBT com­mu­nity cen­ters, to en­cour­age peo­ple to ap­ply to be­come par­ents. DCF Com­mis­sioner Joette Katz said there are roughly 100 LGBT adop­tive fam­i­lies al­ready in the state’s sys­tem. She said she wants to in­crease that num­ber to at least 250 by Jan­uary, when Mal­loy’s term ex­pires.

“There are hun­dreds, if not thou­sands of fam­i­lies, that have a lot of love to give,” she said, not­ing a 2013 study by the Wil­liams In­sti­tute at UCLA School of Law that found same-sex cou­ples are four times more likely than dif­fer­ent-sex cou­ples to raise an adopted child and six times more likely to raise fos­ter chil­dren.

While there’s no of­fi­cial, up-to-date count of gay and les­bian adop­tive par­ents, ad­vo­cates say the num­ber is on the rise.

The Kansas Leg­is­la­ture this year passed leg­is­la­tion that pre­vents bar­ring faith­based agen­cies from pro­vid­ing adop­tion or fos­ter care ser­vices for the state be­cause the agen­cies won’t place chil­dren in homes that vi­o­late their “sin­cerely held” reli­gious be­liefs. Re­pub­li­can Gov. Jeff Colyer is ex­pected to sign it into law. De­rided by LGBT rights ad­vo­cates, the bill was backed by the state’s Catholic bish­ops and con­ser­va­tive groups.

The Ok­la­homa Leg­is­la­ture over­whelm­ing ap­proved a sim­i­lar bill, grant­ing le­gal pro­tec­tions to faith-based adop­tion agen­cies that won’t place chil­dren in LGBT homes. Other bills aimed at cur­tail­ing LGBT rights in Ok­la­homa were de­railed.

Efforts to place re­stric­tions on gay adop­tions has dis­suaded some in the LGBT com­mu­nity from try­ing to be­come fos­ter or adop­tive par­ents, said Shan­non Smith, who adopted two young broth­ers in DCF care with his hus­band Ross Sten­cil about six years ago. He said that’s why it’s im­por­tant for Con­necti­cut to reach out to fam­i­lies.

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