There are nearly 20,000 children in the Arizona foster care system, yet many state agencies refuse to represent same-sex adoptive couples, and same-sex couples are often considered bottom on the list of homes for potential child placement. To help provide caring and stable homes for these children within LGBTQ households, Arizona’s Children’s Association and Equality Arizona launched Project Jigsaw in August 2015.
Project Jigsaw is a collaborative, grassroots campaign focused on building a diverse coalition of Arizonans who are committed to working together to create an environment where all couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are provided the opportunity to build a loving family for children.
Project Jigsaw connects people with resources, tells the human stories of foster care and adoption and fights for reasonable policy changes to accomplish these goals.
It’s those human stories and grassroots efforts that both inspired and removed barriers for Brian Hatfield, who currently serves as Project Jigsaw's Co-Chair. He vividly recalls his decision to start the adoption process, alongside husband Steve Zeidman. “Honestly, we were lost, we didn’t even know to begin. The labyrinth of the foster-to-adopt process was intimidating. It was a maze of bureaucracy.”
Through mutual friends Hatfield and Zeidman were introduced to Equality Arizona and Arizona’s Children Association and so the journey began. The couple enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at a local Phoenix hot spot and peppered Project Jigsaw Co-Founders Kevin and David Patterson with questions about the foster-to-adopt process. “In all honesty, that sense of community, the camaraderie we felt with other gay dads helped us realize the incredible support system we have here in Arizona.”
In their mid-forties, with retirement in distant sight, the couple hopes to welcome an older child who might have a less likelihood of placement. “My professional career has been devoted to saving pet lives,” says Steve Zeidman, a software developer in the animal welfare space. “Choosing to adopt a child through the foster care system simply aligns with my values.”
Project Jigsaw works to improve the overall foster care and adoption process to ensure all prospective parents have an equal opportunity to foster and adopt and provides the following services:
- Access to Resources: Offer parents, providers and stakeholders the resources they need to navigate the foster care and adoption process so every child can succeed. This includes identifying agencies, lawyers and counseling services well-versed in the specific needs of LGBTQ families considering fostering or adoption.
- Education: Educate the public about the importance of foster care and adoption and why all prospective parents who are looking to provide loving, sable homes for children should have equal access to both opportunities.
- Advocacy and Influence of Public Policy: Coalition partners connect with elected officials and providers to ensure that Arizona policies and procedures align with Arizona’s mission to ensure a home for every child.
Nearly a year into their adoption process, Hatfield and Zeidman have recently been licensed and have started the matching process. Supported by their family and the community they’ve built through Project Jigsaw, the couple hopes to welcome a child into their lives in the next few months.
With close to 20,000 children in the Arizona foster care system, the LGBTQ community is poised to make a positive impact in the lives of Arizona’s foster children. Project Jigsaw is prepared to help you through the process: to get started, visit the Project Jigsaw website or send an email.