Huffington Post Gay Voices and RaiseAChild.US are collaborating in an 10-part “Let Love Define Family” series for November’s National Adoption Month. Each series installment will introduce you to another aspect of fostering and adoption. Together we will meet foster youth, hear from culturally competent foster and adoption agency leaders, chat with cast members from the ABC Family television series “The Fosters,” and celebrate LGBT parents and the successful and healthy families they create across the United States. -- Rich Valenza, RaiseAChild.US
Ruben is an amazing, intelligent, and caring foster youth who, at 17, is on the verge of aging out of the foster system without a family to call his own. He has his sights set on college but, like many foster youth without families, he will be doing so without the loving support of family to help him through him through the ups and downs and welcome him home at the holidays.
As a foster youth in California, Ruben is eligible to attend community college at no charge or to apply for funding and the Guardian Scholars Program to guide him through a California State college or university. More than anything, Ruben still hopes he will be adopted.
Kids like Ruben are the inspiration for our work at RaiseAChild.US, where we believe every child deserves a safe, loving, and permanent home. Please read his story and take a moment to look at his photos because Ruben represents tens of thousands of kids in the U.S. who, through no fault of their own, were simply dealt a bad hand in life. I believe that as members of the LGBT community we have an innate sense of what it means to feel left out. If there are people who would understand Ruben and his personal struggles, it’s our community. I encourage you to open your heart and consider adopting Ruben or any other youth in foster care.
I sat down with Ruben to learn more about what having a family means to him.
Tell us a little about yourself and the things you like to do.
Well, my name is Ruben and I'm a 17-year-old senior in high school in Pasadena. I've been with Five Acres Boys and Girls Aid Society of Los Angeles since 2005. I'm in my last year with the organization before I go out on my own. I can honestly say that this is actually something I'm looking forward to doing and experiencing. I'm looking forward to what the next phase of my life has to offer. There are many things I like to do. They include reading and writing but also things kids my age enjoy doing such as socializing with friends, video games, and sleeping! Also, as I am a senior, a big part of next year for me will be college and the challenges it has to offer.
What would you like to say to someone who is considering fostering or adopting?
I think it's a job that comes with many challenges but rewards as well. You can really change someone's life for the better and have a huge impact on them for years to come.
How do you feel about the idea of having a foster family?
I mean I miss my own family all the time. But you know... sometimes you just have to tough it out and hold on.
What do you imagine the difference would be between living in a group home and living with a family?
Restrictions, definitely restrictions. Here in a group home we live in a system which is acceptable for younger teens, but for me as a 17 almost 18 year old, it's really suffocating, you know? The group home is more of a system and program as opposed to a home where the family environment is more active.
If you are able to move into a family what are you most looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to having that family feeling back in my life. Like knowing I have people I can really say care and look out for me. I'm also looking forward to having people to look up to and go to in times where I may need some guidance.
What kind of family or parent would you like to have? Would you be OK having parents who were gay or lesbian?
To be honest, I am a pretty open person. I would be okay with gay or lesbian parents because sexual orientation is irrelevant. I'm just looking for caring people.
To learn more about Ruben and other foster teens looking for families, contact www.raiseachild.us. Rich Valenza is the founder and CEO of RaiseAChild.US, a nonprofit organization that believes all children deserve a safe, loving and permanent home. We educate and encourage the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adoption to answer the needs of the 400,000 children in our nation's foster care system. RaiseAChild works with foster and adoption agencies that have received training in LGBT cultural competence through the Human Right’s Campaign Foundation’s “All Children – All Families” initiative [link: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/all-children-all-families-about-the-initiative] and received its Seal of Recognition. RaiseAChild is leading a five-city tour of special events for prospective parents for National Adoption Month. We are capping successful events in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Kansas City with upcoming events in New York City (December 3) and San Francisco (December 5). To RSVP, visit www.raiseachild.us or email firstname.lastname@example.org.