“As a documentary filmmaker, I feel ethically bound to try to truth tell.”

In this special RaiseAChild “Let Love Define Family®” series installment for HuffPost Queer Voices, contributing writer Danielle Lescure visited with the San Francisco bay area filmmakers to understand their initial vision, challenges, and personal motivations.

Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker Nicole Opper, 36, is skilled at capturing people’s stories on camera alongside her wife, Kristan Cassady, 39. Over the last two years, however, this Oakland, CA couple turned the tables by documenting their own personal journey toward creating a family through foster-adoption. The result? A delightful and thought-provoking web-based docu-series called “The F Word.”

Continue reading This Queer Couple Turns The Camera on Themselves in ‘The F Word’

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Foster Parent Self-Assessment Quiz

Whether you are an older adult or a younger adult, single, or married, a working or a stay-at-home-parent, a home owner or renter, adoption or foster care may be a good option for you. The questionnaire below will help you determine if foster or adopting is the best choice for you now. If you answer Yes to the statements below, you are ready to begin the process of becoming a foster/adoptive parent.

I am 21 years old or older
Foster/adoptive parents must be 21 years old or older; single or legally married and must have a valid driver’s license (you may be divorced or widowed).

Am I in good health?
Being a parent can be demanding. You must be healthy and emotionally stable to care for foster/adoptive children. All those living in your home must have a health statement completed by a physician showing that you are free of communicable diseases.

My home is safe
During the home study, a safety inspection of your home will be conducted. You must have working smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher.

I am open to working with children who have moderate behaviors
Many children have experienced trauma and loss and can react by running away, stealing, lying, or with physical and verbal aggression.

I am open to working with biological families
Typically, foster-to-adopt children have visits with their biological siblings, biological parents, and relatives. Sometimes foster parents may need to supervise visits.

I have not had a case of child abuse or neglect
All potential foster/adoptive parents are required to submit to background checks prior to certification including other states where an applicant has resided.

I have adequate income
You do not have to be wealthy to become a foster/adoptive parent. However, you must have enough income to meet your own family’s needs and be able to demonstrate that you can financially support an additional child for up to 6 weeks without financial reimbursement. During the certification process you will be asked to provide proof of income and to review family expenses.

I am able to attend training
Foster/adoptive parents must complete training and all required paper work. Parents must commit to continuing training and workshops. Additional training is important to making the relationship a success.

No adult in my home has been convicted of a crime
If you or any adult living in your home has been convicted of certain criminal offenses, you cannot become a foster/adoptive parent. Each adult member in your household over age 18 will be fingerprinted.

I am ready to begin a home study now
You are ready to begin the home study if your life and home are stable. “Stable” means that you are not about to move and are not having financial, marital or emotional difficulties or making any major life changes in the near future.

Who can I talk to about the next steps?
You can contact us at 323-417-1440 or email us to find out about becoming a foster parent.

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When husbands Robert and Tony, (pictured above in photo by chrisjamesmedia.com), began researching their family building options, they quickly began to feel a little overwhelmed by all of their options. In addition, the men had their concerns about whether they would even be welcomed to build a family. Then a friend suggested they consider fostering to adopt and put them touch with The Village Family Services, a RaiseAChild partner agency located on North Hollywood.

“The Village Family Services staff made us feel very comfortable from the very beginning,” explained Robert. “The agency had no issues with us being a gay couple and we trusted them with making the biggest decision of our lives.” According to Tony, “It would be difficult to imagine going through the family building process any other way. The best part is there is no cost for their services, but the rewards have been tremendous.”

Cristina Bostanian-Quezada, Adoptions Program Manager at The Village Family Services explained, “Our goal is to meet the critical needs of children throughout Southern California. There are over 13,000 children in our foster care system that are waiting for a forever family. Our job is to assist in creating families to nurture and heal these kids.”

Continue reading Preconceived Notions Disappeared for these Foster Parents

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Please note: The adoption tax credit is a one-time credit per child. If you have received your adoption tax credit for an adoption, you do not apply for an additional adoption tax credit in future years.

Since 2003, families who adopted a child with special needs from foster care could claim a federal adoption tax credit even if they had no adoption expenses. Children who receive adoption assistance/subsidy benefits are considered children with special needs. Other adoptive families are also eligible for the credit, but must have (and be able to document, if requested by the IRS) qualified adoption expenses.

The tax credit was refundable for 2010 and 2011, but not for 2012 or future years. A refundable tax credit is one you get back regardless of what you owe or paid in taxes for the year. When the credit is not refundable, you receive only what you have in federal income tax liability.

As of October 16, 2015, those who adopted in 2011 or earlier will not benefit.

The amount of the credit is based on the year the adoption finalized:

2017 $13,570
2016 $13,460
2015 $13,400
2014 $13,190
2013 $12,970
2012 $12,650

The credit is claimed one time for each adopted child with special needs. Below, we explain the basics of the adoption tax credit.

To be eligible for the credit, you must:

  • Have adopted a child other than a stepchild — Children who receive a monthly adoption subsidy payment have been determined by the state to have special needs, so these children are eligible for the full tax credit without documenting expenses. Families who adopted children without special needs are also eligible, but need to have (and be able to document, if asked) qualified adoption expenses.
  • And be within the income limits — How much of the credit you can claim is based on income. For 2015, families with a federal modified adjusted gross income above $241,010 cannot claim the credit; families with incomes above $201,010 can claim part credit. Anyone with incomes below the lower amount should be able to claim the full credit. (Adoptions from previous years had different income limits; 2016 income limits will be $241,920 and $201,920.)

If You Adopted in 2016

You will claim the credit when you file your 2016 taxes next year. Read our fact sheet for more information.

If You Adopted in 2015

You need to amend your 2015 taxes. Read our fact sheet for more information.

If You Adopted in 2014

You need to amend your 2014 taxes. Read our fact sheet for more information.

If You Adopted in 2013

You need to amend your 2013 taxes. Read our fact sheet for more information.

If You Adopted in 2012

Even though federal tax year 2012 is closed, you will need to amend your 2012 taxes in order to claim the adoption tax credit and determine what amount would carry forward to 2013. Any benefit you would have received with 2012 taxes you will lose. Read our fact sheet for more information.

If You Adopted in 2011 or earlier

The tax year 2011 is closed for everyone, even those who filed an extension on their 2011 taxes. So any adoptions that finalized in 2011 or earlier are no longer able to file for a refund

Below are links to a number of resources for adoptive families.

NACAC’s resources focus on adoptions of children with special needs from foster care, but may also be of use to other adoptive families.

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When Craig Peterson, now 57, became the first openly gay man in Indiana to adopt children through foster care in 1998, he knew there would be scrutiny and he was prepared. But he could never have imagined the journey he was about to embark on, the headlines he’d make, and the doors he would open for others. And most importantly, the role he would take on as an advocate of greater understanding and support for foster care children who may arrive into their adoptive homes with special needs and carry the weight of a traumatic past.

“It’s a journey,” Craig said. “That’s oftentimes the word that I use. I don’t know exactly what the path is gonna be and you’ve gotta be prepared for when something comes up. You just never know.”

Growing up in Montana, Craig’s parents taught him to see beyond what others looked like and to respect and appreciate their differences.

“That was a real part of my fabric growing up,” he said. “There was never any room for trash talk in our house, so I learned a lot of empathy.”

Continue reading The Path to Parenthood Led to Advocacy

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Photo by Marjorie Salvaterra

Meet Crystal a sweet, kind-hearted, intelligent girl who knows what she wants in life and a top priority for her is to have a forever family! Crystal is a well grounded young lady who can engage in a deep conversation, but is also light spirited and playful.

She likes to be active and is a sports lover by nature, she enjoys playing and watching any sport. Crystal’s favorite subjects in school are math and science and her dream is to one day become a veterinarian so that she could be surrounded by animals all day long! Her love for animals is obvious as her eyes lit up when she saw dogs at the photo shoot.

Although Crystal has been through a lot of grief and loss, her resiliency shines through and the hopes of having a forever family that can help her achieve her full potential!

Special thanks to the Children’s Action Network and the Heart Gallery LA for use of their photos. CAN uses the power of the entertainment community to increase awareness about children’s issues and to make them a top priority in everyday life.

If you’re interested in fostering Helen or other kids like her, please Contact Us.

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Jasmin, Josie, Jennifer and Emmanuel are very attached to one another and share an undeniable sibling bond.

Jasmin (2005) is very outgoing, has strong communication skills and can easily express herself. She is extremely personable and makes friends easily. In school, Jasmin performs well and has made average academic progress. She is strong-willed and is learning to follow instructions and with supportive services she is learning to manage her behaviors appropriately. Jasmin likes to play handball, hula hoop and jump rope. She also likes a competitive game of soccer. Jasmine’s love for nature is exhibited in the delight she receives from a nice walk or hike.

Josie (2007) is a very friendly, pleasant and kind kid. She plays nicely with her friends and gets along with others well. She is very talkative and will wow you with her broad vocabulary. Josie is quite artistic and loves to paint and color. She takes pride in her artwork and loves to have it on display. She also likes to read, tell jokes, dance and sing.

Jennifer (2010) is active, full of energy and can be very affectionate. She is very inquisitive and eager to learn new things. Jennifer is learning to trust others with information and at times can be quiet and reserved. However once she feels comfortable, she will easily engage. Jennifer loves to play with all kinds of toys and seems particularly attached to her stuffed animals.

Emmanuel (2012) is an active, happy and energetic little boy. Emmanuel is learning self-help skills and loves to do things independently. He is also learning to be a better listener and manage his feelings and emotions when things do not go his way. Although he has some delays in speech, he is eager to talk and is able to say three to four word sentences. Emmanuel loves to play with his toy cars, trucks, and balls and enjoys being outdoors! He also likes Sponge Bob and Thomas the Train.

If you’re interested in fostering Jasmin, Josie, Jennifer, and Emmanuel or other kids like them, please Contact Us.

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Photo by Anne Richardson-Daniel

Helen (2003) is a very sweet and loving little girl. Despite the losses she has experienced, she is determined and resilient. Helen is well behaved, outgoing and likes having fun with her friends. She also enjoys playing her violin and listening to music. Helen’s favorite singer is Ariana Grande and her favorite sport is basketball. She enjoys playing and watching a good game.

Helen attends middle school and recently completed 6th grade. Despite the new challenges that middle school has to offer, she enjoyed it and did well academically. Helen is benefiting from therapeutic services and has a very clear understanding of why she is in foster care. Helen wants a loving family that will nurture and provide her a safe and stable environment.

Special thanks to the Children’s Action Network and the Heart Gallery LA for use of their photos. CAN uses the power of the entertainment community to increase awareness about children’s issues and to make them a top priority in everyday life.

If you’re interested in fostering Helen or other kids like her, please Contact Us.

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Over our five-year history, RaiseAChild has grown from three foster and adoption agency partners in Southern California to twelve partners today. The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and specifically the Adoption and Permanency Resources Division, was one of our founding partners in the recruitment of prospective parents for the 30,000 children in the L.A. County foster care system.

Starting January 2017, State Assembly Bill 403 will bring major changes to California’s child welfare system. In essence the new legislature aims to move foster children out of group homes, creating an even greater demand for foster and adoptive parents, in turn, making our partnership with DCFS more important than ever.

Introduced by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), AB 403 phases out the way treatment and services are currently provided at group homes in favor of measures geared toward providing greater support to foster families. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will be charged with establishing and administering new accreditation standards and payment rates for group homes and foster family agencies.

Continue reading New Year, New Law

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Since founding RaiseAChild, I have had the great fortune to travel our nation to meet and speak with thousands of LGBT people curious about becoming foster and adoptive parents. Over these five years, I have learned to anticipate a list of common questions about building a family through the foster and adoption process. I do my best to correct myths and provide truths about the three most common questions involving the costs, the risks, and the children. However, it is the more private questions and concerns that some LGBT people hold back that I want most to address.

Ten years ago, the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law published research showing that 50 percent of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians wanted to raise a child. The study went on to estimate that two million GLB people were interested in adopting. So today, with the number of children in the nation’s foster care system growing to 425,000, a continuing upward trend over the past three years, the RaiseAChild team constantly challenges ourselves to improve methods to encourage and support more people in our LGBT community to build more families for these children.

Continue reading What’s Keeping You From Becoming an LBGT Parent?

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