Gays With Kids: What is the mission of Long Island Adoptive Families?
Chemene: Long Island Adoptive Families (LIAF) is a group that goes beyond the scope of a general support group to provide education in all aspects of adoption and foster care. Our mission is to be a resource for pre and post adoptive families and adoptees in order to create a network of information and growth. Our goal is to build a community of friends to empower each other through the journey of adoption.
GWK: When did it form, and why?
Chemene: The group was originally formed from a small group of women who belonged to a RESOLVE support group (a national infertility organization). They transitioned into a pre-adoption support group in 2002. When I joined in 2007, it was decided that I would take over as leader, and from there, the group has grown to support hundreds of adoptive/foster families and adoptees. The group aims to help families through an unknown path and have group members guide them. Over the years, the amount of resources have grown so much that now the group can educate and guide anyone with up to date real life information on all forms of adoption and foster care, which unfortunately the Internet sometimes cannot provide.
GWK: Has it always been the mission of Long Island Adoptive Families to be inclusive of LGBTQ families?
Chemene: We have never been exclusive to any race, gender, culture, ethnicity or sexual orientation. When the group transitioned from infertility to adoption, the LGBTQ community began to join and have become a big part of our group.
GWK: How many LGBTQ families has Long Island Adoptive Families worked with?
Chemene: I would say in general the group has had about 20-30 families over the last few years. However, if you want me to include LGBTQ adoptees or foster children, the number skyrockets.
GWK: What would you say are the particular challenges facing LGBTQ adoptive families?
Chemene: I think prejudice is the biggest one, unfortunately. We have seen it through stories the members have told us and through reading about the laws that have been passed. LGBTQ families have to go through many more challenges than hetero families or even a single parent families. There are agencies that won't work with LGBTQ families at all, and many families won't even call an international agency for fear of being rejected. Right now the law isn't on their side, and until the entire country recognizes LGBTQ marriages, then the adoption process will continue to be difficult. I had hoped that the Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015 was the start of progress, but things are still difficult. The states and government continue to manipulate the laws to make this even more layered and complex for those who want to adopt.
Mark and Andrew, two dads-to-be who are members of the Long Island Adoptive Families support group
GWK: What would you like to see change in the world of adoption?
Chemene: After doing this for the last 9 1/2 years, I have seen so many problems that deal with this subject. First, the foster care system is unfortunately a mess and the children are NOT a priority in most cases. Second, the laws prevent adoption from being a smooth process; they make it very difficult for expectant parents and potential adoptive families to connect without hurdles. Each state has their own set of laws and they can vary greatly from state to state. The states need to see the big picture and realize that they are making laws without speaking to those involved in it.
Planned Parenthood is a great organization, but they are under attack right now. They are continually helping women who are trying to make the right choice for themselves. Should someone decide that placing their child is right for them, then I hope that they are supported to do so. There are thousands of families looking to adopt who can provide homes for these children. I would hope one day that the two sides of this issue can come together to help people make the best decision for all involved.
I also hope that the one day we could come together and help children that need homes from other countries, but we need those laws to change. When Russia closed their doors to American adoptions, it suddenly it changed the view of international adoption. Many are now afraid of adopting internationally for fear that other countries can stop the process at any moment. We had members in the process when Russia made this decision and people lost the children they were already matched with. There are literally thousands of children stuck in orphanages when they don't need to be.
GWK: Where do you see Long Island Adoptive Families in 5-10 years?
Chemene: Over the years we have grown to add many sub-sections to the group. We have expanded to include the teen group, special needs parenting group, single parent group, neonatal abstinence syndrome group and kids group for adoptees under the age of 10, which has events all year round including the annual camping trip. (We just did our 7th annual at the end of July 2017).
The group has added many different online platforms for local families to connect. Our meetings are now streamed LIVE through our virtual facebook group. This allows families to join in from home and still feel part of the group even though they may not be able to make the meetings each month. Our Facebook group is secret in order to keep our privacy. The Facebook group is essential so that families are able to reach out to others whenever they need.
GWK: And lastly, over the past year, we have partnered with other organizations like AGAPE (Adoption & Guardianship Assistance Program for Everyone) to provide more professional comprehensive support for post adoptive families.
Chemene: I see the group becoming a leading resource and educator for all families trying to find what journey is right for them in adoption or foster care. I also see us growing exponentially in the area of adoptee support. The most important part of this journey is the children and having them get the support and love they need is the group's main goal.
Read Mark and Andrew's story, members of the Long Island Adoptive Families and two gay dads-to-be trying creating their family through foster-adopt.