By Kevin Patterson, as told to Mark Snyder, Directof of Communications
My name is Kevin Patterson, and I am on the Board of Directors of Equality Arizona. Our Board is unique because we all have a volunteer role in the organization’s programming.
As a proud adoptive parent, I knew what I wanted to contribute to Equality Arizona's mission of supporting LGBT Arizonans. I have two kids that are ages 5 and 8. They are from Arizona, and my husband David and I had a foster relationship with them before we were able to legally adopt them. During the process of foster-to-adoption, we became painfully aware that there are many barriers in the way, making it harder for LGBT-headed families to adopt children and youth.
One of the biggest barriers we initially faced was that only one of us could adopt the kids because were not legally married in Arizona. I adopted both of the girls so, on paper, I was their father and was able to make decisions on their behalf. David had no legal ties to them. This was really stressful for us both, and it meant that sometimes we had to rearrange our schedules so that I could achieve typical parenting tasks like picking the kids up from school or taking them to the doctor.
David and I were heavily involved in the Arizona marriage equality cases as plaintiffs and advocates. When we were granted marriage equality, we got married right away and had to go back through and complete the second-parent adoption process.
What we noticed was that for LGBT parents the process was very complicated; for that reason we started asking a lot of questions of the agencies. We found out that there were not that many LGBT adoptive parents in Arizona despite the fact that there are over 17,000 children without homes in our state. It seems there is a big population of LGBT people here who choose not to adopt, don’t know how to adopt, or don’t even realize it is possible. In addition, there are other steps that need to be accomplished to get legal recognition, creating unnecessary barriers.
We went to four agencies before we found one that would allow us to adopt. Arizona has a law that permits adoption agencies the right to refuse based on politics, religion, or just private reasons. Finally, we found one that would: Arizona Children’s Association.
That’s why I’m spearheading Equality Arizona’s efforts to launch Project Jigsaw. Our goals are to:
- Educate LGBT Arizonans that it is now easier to build and extend your family, if that is what they wish to do
- Advocate for the state to enforce adoption laws and ensure county clerks are not denying LGBT-headed families by using outdated forms designed for heterosexual couples
- Provide resources about the process and where to find accepting agencies
- Raise money and increase support from businesses and politicians who support LGBT families
- Provide support groups and events for LGBT-headed families, including groups for parents who have adopted across racial and ethnic lines, transgender parents, etc.
David and I are learning about parenting as we go, just like other families. We are two dads learning how to take care of two girls. We also have the transracial component – it’s a learning process that most of the agencies in Arizona are not equipped to handle and so this project offers a way to open the box and provide the resources for people, many that people don’t know they even need. We definitely want to integrate resources into this project for parents adopting across racial and ethnic lines.
We have received some wonderful support in the community. Arizona Children’s Association has been one of the top organizations to collaborate.
We have launched a social media campaign, formed a coalition of supportive organizations, businesses, and politicians, and we are excited to continue this growth. We have a grassroots video campaign that we are currently shooting with a variety of diverse families in Arizona to talk about the importance of adopting through the state and spreading the awareness about what it looks like to expand your family. These videos will be shown on local TV networks and at local LGBT events and galas.
Please visit equalityarizona.org to learn more about our organization and the Jigsaw project.
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