11/23/2011 02:51 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Giving Thanks for Family

As a mother, I am grateful every day for the blessing of my family and committed to ensuring that my children are happy, health, loved and cared for. This week, as I prepare to celebrate this time of Thanksgiving, my heart goes out to children who have a very different existence from that of my children. These are the more than 400,000 children in foster care, who have no permanent family to call their own this Thanksgiving. Because of discriminatory state laws and outdated policies, many of those who want so much to be moms and dads and also happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender cannot open up their hearts and homes to these kids.

There is hope that this could change in time.

This month, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act was introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and a companion bill in the House now has 82 bipartisan co-sponsors thanks to the work of lead sponsor, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.).

This bill would ensure that our country does everything possible to move children out of the foster care system and into permanent, loving homes. It would eliminate discrimination in foster and adoption placement policies based on the marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity of the prospective parents.

Also this month, President Obama issued a proclamation in recognition of National Adoption Month that clearly expresses his belief that adoptive families come in all forms.

It also represents his belief and ours that adoption decisions should be based on the best interests of children and that all qualified caregivers should be allowed to serve as adoptive parents.

We are making incredible progress, and it's because there are moms and dads all over the country who are incredible advocates in their daily lives. People who recognize that the only way for circumstances to change is to do something about it.

People like:

  • Mary Keane, a New York woman who decided to make a difference in the lives of foster youth by volunteering to become a foster mom at age 50. Now at age 63, Keane has 12 foster kids, ages 22 to 40. She has adopted five of them and plans to adopt five more.
  • Matt and Ray Lees, who perservered, in spite of their inability to adopt jointly as a couple in Ohio. Ray adopted three of their children and Matt is completing an adoption of five siblings whose drug-addicted mother could not care for them.
  • John Armantrout of San Diego, who was forced to hide his relationship with his spouse, Larry Moreno, because of the now-repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell law. Armantrout ended his service to our country so that the two could facilitate the adoption of both their sons, Mike and Tristion.
  • Steven and Roger Ham, who are raising 12 children, all adopted from foster care, in Arizona, a state that makes it extremely difficult for LGBT people to create a family through adoption.
  • Martin Gill of Florida, who has become a tireless advocate for LGBT adoption after fighting in his own state to adopt two foster children he and his partner have been raising since 2004, and fighting successfully to challenge the constitutionality of a law that banned adoption by gay and lesbian people.
  • Rob Keeling, an adoptive dad in Virginia and a former board member of Family Equality Council, who spoke out eloquently this year demanding that his state prevent child welfare agencies from discriminating against qualified, loving parents simply because of their sexual orientation or family status.

Until Congress passes the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, we must all work to make a difference in whatever ways we can.

The people above have answered the call and done what they could to improve the lives of youth in foster care. Just like them, there are simple and easy ways for you to incorporate this into your life and have a huge impact.

One simple way is to urge your senators and representatives to support this urgently needed legislation.

Another way to is for you to recognize the loving parents who are working in their everyday lives to change laws, change the hearts and minds of policymakers and actively change the lives of children in their own communities. If you know someone like this, take the time to thank them.

This Thanksgiving, as we sit around the table with our families, I ask that you remember all the children who should be sitting around tables of their own in loving homes all across this country, but who have yet to find their forever families.

Give thanks for all of the people who are making a difference in the lives of these children, in ways both big and small.

I am thankful each and every day to be part of a community of people who care, and who are committed to creating a better world for all families.