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My husband and I adopted our son Zion out of foster care when he was five years old. We were upfront about the kind of family we were from the start. We told him there are all types of families. Some have a mom and a dad, some have one mom, or one dad, some have two moms. But YOU have two dads, plus, each of us is different -- Papa is from New Orleans so he's Cajun, which means he's kind of French. I'm Filipino; you're black. But the thing that makes us a family is that we love each other. On Zion's first day of kindergarten, we picked him up and a kid sees us and says to him "You have two dads?" My son says yes and the other kid asks "Why?" Zion said, "Because we're French!"
Our son had been in foster care since he was three years old. He came into our care with a long history of neglect and physical abuse. He suffered from malnutrition, developmental delays, ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder and PTSD. Remember what it felt like to lose sight of your mom at the supermarket when you were a kid? Zion lost both of his parents and by the time we met him we were his fifth foster placement in two years.
Others saw an older kid with behavioral issues. We saw an amazing, bright, loving kid who needed us. We got his health back on track, therapists to help unpack his trauma, an occupational therapist to shore up the developmental delays and a psychiatrist to secure the proper meds for his ADHD. Our son is now 14 years old and towers over me. He is a straight-A student who excels at math, science, and physics. He's a fearless athlete, a black belt in Aikido, a DJ, and a musician who plays five different instruments. The best part about having an adopted kid is that I can brag about him getting straight-As because I know he didn't get that from me (despite the fact that I'm Asian!) Zion is loving, courageous and resilient in spite of everything he's been through.
Was any of this easy? No. It's takes vigilance and persistence to advocate for our son's needs, but we were able to do that because we live in a state where it is illegal for any government funded agency to discriminate against qualified parents based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, marital status or religion.
Not every child in need of a home is so lucky. There is a foster care and adoption crisis in our country. There are over 400,000 kids in foster care with over 100,000 of those kids waiting to be adopted.
Same-sex couples are seven times more likely to foster, and seven times more likely to adopt than opposite-sex couples. LGBTQ people are also more likely to adopt children of color, older children, and children with disabilities -- children who have the most difficulty finding forever homes. Despite the huge numbers of kids in desperate need of permanent homes, current law in nine states specifically permits foster care and adoption agencies to turn away qualified LGBTQ people, single people, and people of various religious minorities who wish to foster and adopt. These kids deserve a system that works for them, not against them.
The Every Child Deserves A Family Act is legislation sponsored by Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), Congresswoman Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-P.R.) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that promotes the best interest of foster children by increasing the number of foster and adoptive homes for all children. It does so by prohibiting federally funded child welfare service providers from discriminating against families and individuals based on religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status. This law would give every child and youth in foster care a better chance at having the forever family they deserve. We have a major crisis in this country that harms hundreds of thousands of Zions. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act is a solution.
When we picked our son up from the Department of Child and Family Services, he was sitting between two garbage bags. One bag held his clothes and the other his toys. This tiny little boy was sitting between them like another bag of garbage someone had dropped off and forgotten about. No child should ever feel discarded. Whether you're five, seven or eight years old, you need your mom or dad, or better yet, two guys with a really cute house.
We recently heard about an 18 year old teen aging out of the system who still wanted to be adopted. When asked why, she replied "I'm going to college, don't you think I'd still want a family to come home to at Thanksgiving or Christmas? Don't you think I'd still want a place where I felt I belonged?"
Alejandro "Alec" Mapa is an American actor, comedian and writer. He got his first professional break when he was cast to replace B. D. Wong for the role of Song Liling in the Broadway production of M. Butterfly.