June 14, 2018 at 11:27 am PDT | by Rich Valenza
From immigrants to opioids, U.S. is failing its children

Rich Valenza is the founder and CEO of RaiseAChild, which is holding an Honors Summer Party on June 23.

On a recent visit back to my very small hometown in Central Pennsylvania, I spent some time with my nephew. As the first attorney in our family, my young nephew Joe carries a considerable amount of our family’s pride and promise on his shoulders. He started law school with a bright future ahead and a degree in Environmental Law. This was shortly after the discovery that much of Pennsylvania was sitting over a vast hidden treasure of Marcellus Shale to which hydraulic fracking could release a natural gas supply to fuel the U.S. for decades.

After graduating with honors, my nephew signed on with one of the small reputable law firms housed in a stately Victorian style building right along the river in the heart of our hometown. I asked Joe how things were going and if the tremendous natural gas deposit was fueling his career.

“Well actually, you and I are kind of in the same business,” my nephew stated.

“Wait, what do you mean,” I asked.

“About every week, I get called to the County Court House for a judge to assign a new case of children being removed from their birth parents to enter the foster system,” Joe said. “Drilling for natural gas never really happened back here to meet the early expectation. Instead, the opioid epidemic has moved in and has taken hold all across this whole region.”   

A recent “60 Minutes” broadcast reported that an estimated 1 million sets of grandparents are now parenting their grandchildren as the nation’s opioid epidemic expands. The story went on to explain how many of these grandparents have depleted their retirement savings because of the unplanned, yet everyday costs involved in feeding, clothing and raising their grandchildren.

Every hour, while our nation’s attention is confounded by chaotic headlines, children are being pulled from their birth parents because of the neglect and abuse that results from their parent’s opioid addiction.

Every day, while our nation focuses on digesting the latest sensational tweet, more children are being stripped from their immigrant families that arrive at our southern border seeking asylum and a safer, more promising future for their families in the U.S. Since October 2016, Reuters News estimates that more than 2,400 children have been pulled from their immigrant parents.

Every month, emboldened elected officials float religious liberties legislation designed to allow faith-based foster and adoption agencies to continue receiving public tax revenues while freely discriminating against certain sectors of those taxpayers who are willing and capable foster and adoptive parents. The potential families facing these discriminatory practices often include single, divorced or unmarried parents; parents of certain religions and colors; and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

According to the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, the numbers of children in our nation’s foster system have increased every year between 2012 and 2016. Average these statistics and over 8,000 children have been added to foster system in each of these years. While the 2017 total is expected in the months ahead, 437,465 foster children were counted in 2016.

How is it possible to “make America great” if we are failing children by such significant numbers?

RaiseAChild is one organization stepping up to the plate to face and find solutions to this growing crisis. Today, RaiseAChild is serving a growing database of over 8,200 current and prospective foster and adoptive U.S. households in our mission of building loving families for foster children. RaiseAChild was founded seven years ago with the goal of making the process of fostering and adopting a bit easier for the LGBT community. We grew out of the original Pop Luck Club in West Hollywood, co-founded by Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa who died with their son David Reed Gamboa, when United Flight 175 flew into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Soon we learned that the successful model we created for the LGBT community also worked well for single straight women and men, for married heterosexual couples, and for communities of color. Following the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage, we were the first national LGBT organization to exemplify equality by expanding our vision to truly welcome all people.

RaiseAChild has always believed in the power of collaboration. Therefore, we partner with the Human Rights Campaign and the North American Council on Adoptable Children in advocating for policies and practices that are in the best interest of children in foster care and the families that care for them. Together, we have built a network of culturally competent and inclusive foster and adoption agencies in nearly every state of the union.

Studies from the Williams Institute at UCLA and other national think-tanks show that the LGBTQ community holds great promise as one of the most viable answers to our nation’s foster care crisis. It is my dream for RaiseAChild to help lead the charge of solving this crisis by encouraging and mentoring the LGBTQ community, and all people equally, through the foster and adoption process and well beyond with continuing support for our families. If you have ever considered building a family of your own through fostering or adoption, please contact us now at RaiseAChild.org or 323-417-1440.

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