Our Annual LGBTQ-Inclusive Preschool & Kindergarten Fair: an SF Tradition

by OFC Education Director Tarah Fleming

Our Family Coalition’s 5th Annual LGBTQ Inclusive Preschool & Kindergarten Fair was an incredible success!

Over 35 schools set up display tables at San Francisco Day School to show off their teachers and curriculum that foster respectful learning environments for all families. Over 90 caregivers strolled through with toddlers and infant carriers to have introductory conversations with school leaders. Families learned about the different community partners that worked together with Our Family Coalition to host this important and informative evening. The San Francisco Library displayed books featuring all kinds of families, and Community Well served fresh scones and berries while informing caregivers about the free classes they host for parents. San Francisco Unified and Parents for Public Schools took the mic and talked about the school enrollment process and People of Color in Independent Schools shared about their upcoming workshops.

As we enter into an era more aware and inclusive of LGBTQ families in schools, it is important to remember that it is also a time where the opposition is feeling emboldened to try and limit visibility, access and even rights. For this reason OFC is fully committed to creating spaces like the LGBTQ Inclusive Preschool & Kindergarten Fair, which also compliments the work of the FAIR Education Act, signed into law in 2011 and designed to ensure LGBTQ People are fairly represented in California public school curriculum and text books.

As we continue to engage families, teachers, community partners and school leaders in the work of creating equitable and just schools for all, we are reminded of the values many of us learned in kindergarten; love yourself and love others. This is much easier to do when your family is not only reflected back to you in all your school books, but loved and respected by the entire school community.

Check out the schools that participated here.

Three Things Parents of Toddlers and Young Kids Need to Know

We’re offering a fantastic workshop this Thursday, September 14: The First Five Years: Developmental Milestones and Parenting Matters.  In anticipation of it, we spoke with Dr. Dhara Meghani from University of San Francisco’s Parentline, an incredible local resource for parents offering free, confidential counseling (!) for parents of children 0-3 years old, and the source of our expert workshop facilitation.

Our question to Dr. Meghani: What three things do you think are most important for parents and caregivers to know about their babies, toddlers, and young kids, and yet most commonly misunderstood? Here’s what she had to say.

One: it’s normal for a baby to take a while to settle into a compatible sleep pattern. This is definitely a large source of family stress and anxiety. Knowing more about what a baby is capable of can help. And setting expectations realistically may alleviate concern.

Two: cognitive development is not a linear process: backsliding is not just common, it’s necessary. Just prepare for regressions and try to enjoy the ride. Dr. Meghani’s example was  brilliant: you know when you’re cleaning out the fridge? And the first thing you have to do is empty it all out on the kitchen counter? Well, that’s what kids are doing when they’re on the verge of a major developmental leap: in order to create the capacity for that new cognitive capacity, their brains literally prune out unnecessary neuronal pathways.

Three: it is totally normal to be freaked out! Rather than beat yourself up about being stressed, just keep your pediatrician on speed dial, or contact Parentline for support. Support groups for parents and caregivers – like those offered from organizations like Our Family Coalition – can provide critical life lines as well. Knowing others are going through what you’re going through can offer perspective, companionship, and sometimes some helpful new angles on a sticky challenge.

Want more of all this? Lindsey Rogers and Alicia Ranucci, doctoral students in the Clinical Psychology PsyD Program at USF work at Parentline, and will have a whole lot more to say at our workshop The First Five Years: Developmental Milestones and Parenting Matters, held this Thursday, September 14, 6-8pm at our San Francisco office. Advance registration always helpful (we calculate dinner and childcare based on it), but drop-ins welcome.

Help us get the expanded Parental Leave bill across the finish line!


From our colleagues at the California Work and Family Coalition:

Great news! It looks like we have a deal with the Governor’s office on our priority legislation – parental leave bill (SB 63 – Jackson) – and he is planning to sign! 

This is exciting news, but we still need to get the bill through the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymembers TODAY in their Capitol offices to urge them to vote “AYE” on SB 63. (Find your representative’s office number here.)

Here’s a sample script:
Hello, I live in Assemblymember __________________’s district (optional: I am a mother, father, health care provider, teacher, small business owner etc) and I’m calling to urge his/her ‘aye’ (or yes) vote on SB 63 (Jackson) the New Parent Leave Act. This is an important bill that allows more parents to bond with their new children. Do you know how the Assemblymember plans to vote on SB 63?

If you have a relationship with your Assemblymember or their office, and can have an even more detailed conversation, here’s what we’re stressing regarding the amendments to the bill: this provision creates a new mediation pilot program within the Department of Fair Employment and Housing so that the parties can elect to mediate their dispute before moving to the stage of filing a lawsuit.

Are you able to do more than call? If you are available, please also join us in the Capitol on Monday, September 11 or Tuesday, September 12 as we make the rounds to Assemblymember offices. We’ll be meeting at the 6th Floor Cafeteria at 10:00 am and again at 12:30 to connect before making the rounds.

I do hope some of you will join us at the Capitol on Monday or Tuesday next week. The bill is likely to be voted on on Tuesday in the Assembly.

In Solidarity,

Jenya Cassidy
CA Work and Family Coalition

Some Families Built Art and Taught In to Fight White Supremacy Last Weekend

Our Family Coalition was hugely honored to collaborate with with Abundant BeginningsBolochos San FranciscoSURJ Bay Area Youth and Families, SURJ SF – Showing Up for Racial Justice and Kehilla Community Synagogue to create a loving and peaceful space for all families to come together while the grown up world spent the weekend trying to figure out how to confront overt racism and anti-semitism in our own back yard.

The “Family Art Build and Teach In to Fight White Supremacy,” held at the Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland, boasted close to 100 kids and families sitting in circles, reading anti-racist children’s books, learning chants for liberation and just having a raucous good time! Outside one could see four and five year olds collaborating on making Black Lives Matter signs, and in the back room families sat in dialog circles to talk about our greatest hopes and fears for our children living in a time where the words Nazi, KKK and White Supremacists have been part of our daily conversations more than usual.

The Artivists, “three intersectional feminists that use art for activism,” provided us with the opportunity to silk screen T-shirts with a powerful fist image stating “No Silence in the Face of Bigotry.” On top of all this were healthy snacks for all! Kids and families were able to have challenging conversations with each other, with the support of a beloved community and in an environment of solidarity.

OFC stands proudly with all marginalized communities and also appreciated the intentional efforts to lift up the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people present, and to create a positive and beautiful place where we could all finger-paint together for justice.

On Facebook? Check out our photo album of the event.

Trump Administration: Intolerable Assaults on the Most Vulnerable

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ATTACKS ON TRANS SERVICE MEMBERS AND WORKING AMERICANS’ HEALTHCARE ARE INTOLERABLE ASSAULTS ON THE MOST VULNERABLE

SAN FRANCISCOThis morning President Trump mounted another divisive attack on transgender Americans, banning transgender people from serving in the military – the largest employer in the world –  in any capacity. Make no mistake: the timing of this incendiary announcement is not coincidental, as we are in the final, most critical days and hours of the battle to preserve the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We will not tolerate this administration making pariahs of these extraordinarily brave Americans, and neither will we be distracted from the work of defending working families’ critical health care support.  

LGBTQ Americans have historically been disproportionately under-insured, and have gained coverage through the ACA at a much higher rate than non-LGBT people.1 The ACA is critical to transgender Americans in particular: it prohibits sex discrimination, including anti-transgender discrimination, by the vast majority of insurance companies and health care providers. In every state, under the ACA, transition-related care cannot be excluded, and providers must treat you with respect and according to your gender identity.

An estimated one million LGBT people would lose coverage by 2026 under the House bill; while exactly what the Senate is about to vote on in the coming days remains shrouded in secrecy and confusion, it is no secret that any slashing of the ACA will harm millions of American families.

“We are well aware that today’s outrageous and unfounded attack on trans military service personnel is timed to distract us from our work to block the repeal of the ACA,” says Our Family Coalition Executive Director Renata Moreira. “These fights cannot be seen as separate. We rededicate ourselves these final days and hours to doing all we can to block repeal of ACA, in the name of all the transgender Americans whose well-being depends on it, on behalf of all the millions and millions of families who would be physically and financially devastated without it. This is a long game, and we must stay in it – together – ‘til the work is done.”

[available as a Press Release PDF here]

  1. Media Advisory: The House Health Care Bill Would Have a Negative Impact on LGBT People,” May 2, 2017.

[photo credit: Faith DaBrooke]

Senate Move to Debate Repeal of ACA an Attack on Most Vulnerable American Families

SAN FRANCISCO – Our Family Coalition joins our colleagues and friends in condemning the U.S. Senate’s recent “motion to proceed” to repeal fundamental elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It is an affront to all American families, particularly the most vulnerable.

LGBTQ Americans, who have historically been disproportionately under-insured, have gained coverage through the ACA at a much higher rate than non-LGBT people, according to a recent study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. We are also more likely to have pre-existing conditions widely viewed as a consequence of social stigma and discrimination – such as mental health conditions or HIV/AIDs. An estimated one million LGBT people would lose coverage by 2026 under the House bill; while what the Senate is about to vote on remains shrouded in secrecy, it is no secret that it will harm countless vulnerable Americans.

“We vow to continue fighting alongside our friends and allies to stop the GOP and the current regime from stripping  health insurance from 21-32 million people,” says Our Family Coalition Executive Director Renata Moreira. “We will raise our voices against raised premiums and reduced protections for folks who need it most, and fight against restricted access to primary and preventive reproductive care.”

[available as Press Release PDF here]

Joint Statement with Forward Together on the Travel Ban and Its Impact on LGBTQ Families

Today we issued a statement with our friends at Forward Together regarding the impacts on LGBTQ families of the revised, reissued travel ban (PDF here).

Our Family Coalition joins Forward Together to condemn the State Department’s re-issued, “modified” travel ban on visitors or refugees from six Muslim-majority nations. It does more than amplify Islamophobia and distract from credible measures to address the real sources of domestic terrorism. By permitting entry only to those found to have “bona fide” connections to the US, the Trump State Department has now defined what a close family tie is.

Grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, cousins, and fiancés are not considered close enough family. And now LGBTQ family members suffering homophobic and transphobic persecution in their countries of origin have even fewer paths to refuge. Not one of the nations called out by this ban recognizes same-sex marriage: all LGBTQ partners in these nations are prohibited from entry based on spousal recognition. 1 Homosexuality is illegal in each of them, and LGBT people in them are subject to flogging, electric shock and punishment up to and including death. 2

Our partners at Forward Together issued a statement on June 29, 2017 condemning the reissued ban, noting:

In addition to legalizing discrimination through the Muslim ban, the Supreme Court’s ruling puts the task of defining family in the hands of the Trump administration thus continuing one of the most heart-wrenching practices of our immigration system – forcing families to choose which family members to sponsor based on a hierarchy of relationships determined by the State Department, not based on how their families actually work or who they want or need to bring to the US. While Trump’s new definition of family is currently limited to the Muslim ban, it is alarming to consider how this definition could create the framework for even more restricted definitions of family within our immigration system.

We couldn’t agree more. Now is the time for broader, not narrower understandings of family. We call on the Trump Administration and the State Department to halt this destructive order. And we all would do well to bear in mind this well-known, paraphrased parable: a rabbi asks, “How do we know the exact moment when night ends and day begins?” The answer: “When strangers approach, and we think of them as our brothers and sisters.”

In solidarity,

Renata Moreira                    Kalpana Krishnamurthy
Executive Director               Senior Policy Director

Our Family Coalition            Forward Together


 

1. Pew Research Center, Gay Marriage Around the World

2. Human Rights Watch, Equality to brutality: global trends in LGBT rights; Human Rights Watch: LGBT Country Profiles Track Shifting Terrain; Wikipedia, LGBT rights by country or territory.

 

5 Pride Pro-tips for Pride-Rookie Parents

by Polly Pagenhart, Communications & Director at Our Family Coalition

This piece was originally published on the OFC Blog on June 24, 2014. It is re-posted here with current links for Pride 2017.

Polly at Pride

Yours truly with kids at Pride, 2010 or something.

If this your first Pride with your family, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to get through the day with your good humor — and your wee charges – intact. And for good reason!

The downside of pride-as-a-parent: it’s not the same as when you were a footloose, fancy-free non-parent. The parade route covers nearly a mile and a half, which amounts to at least a half-hour walk on hard pavement even before you factor in the pre-parade wait and the stop-and-go of parading.

The pride-as-a-parent upside, especially if you march with the OFC contingent: it’s nothing short of transcendent, walking up Market Street with your whole family, watching your children be cheered on by rainbow flag-waving strangers like they’re astronauts returning from the moon.  The supply of pride from that s/hero’s welcome lasts a year, and is well worth what you go through to enable your kids to experience it.

If you make it to the Family Garden (or go there directly), you’ll be greeted by a veritable sea of our families, safely frolicking inside our very own playground.  We’ll have healthy snacks and beverages inside there, plus our own port-a-potties (not to be underestimated!). Also: balloon animals, face painting, story time, and play structure fun.

So! For all pride-rookie parents, here are five essential things to remember:

1. Bring food and water.

2. Bring wheels, if you can.

3. Remember sun protection.

4. Attach an ID to the little ones.

5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.

1. Bring food and water. This one’s close to a parental no-brainier: it’s a warm, sunny June day, and even in the most minimalist of scenarios you’ll be out in the elements for hours plural. We’ll be distributing some water at the contingent gathering spot, but even so, be sure to bring enough water to hydrate yourself and your little ones. Plus do bring easy-to-carry healthy snacks to curb the hunger pangs. There’s tons of food up in Civic Center (at the cost of lines & $$).

2. Bring wheels, if you can. The only thing nearly as important as food & water are wheels, any wheels, whatever wheels you’re able bring to the parade site & schlepp back home: stroller (no big kid is too big if they can jam into it!), wagon, scooter, tricycle, skateboard, roller blades, bikes: whatever conveyance you can bring that will ease the mile, bring it! I even saw a family with a custom rig once: they attached wheels to the bottom of a crib, and rolled that thing ’til it gave up the ghost half-way up the street.

3. Remember sun protection. It’ll be sunny, and sun protection of any & all sorts is in order: wide-brimmed hat; sunglasses; sunscreen. Again: it’s going to be hours in the sun on a fine June day. Don’t overheat or burn.

4. Attach an ID to the little ones. Whether you go low-tech and write your name (not the kids’ name) and cell phone number on the inside of their little forearms, or you affix one of those ID wristbands on ’em, or you somehow securely attach a laminated card to your kid’s person, be sure there is a super-clear way for someone to know to contact you in the unlikely yet very upsetting event you’re separated. You’ll probably not need it, but if you do, it will be a lifeline.

5. Create an exit strategy and end on a good note.  Talk together as a family about what to expect from Pride, and how much is going to feel like enough. Reading through Gayle Pitman’s fantastic new book This Day in June would be fantastic prep if your kids are little and haven’t been yet. Agree in advance how you’ll decide when it’s time to go, whether it’s the grown ups or the kids who are supersaturated. It’s a thrilling day, but for years, my own family simply marched up Market Street and then dropped down into BART at Civic Center, as full as we could manage. One of the key tenets of dog training is “End on a good note!” so that the most recent memory is a positive one. That goes for Pride, too.

A final note, as of 2016: SF Pride, post-Orlando, adopted very strict security measures and will be checking everyone who enters Civic Center on the level that you would expect at the airport. Please review their list of what to bring/ not bring, so you won’t be taken by surprise when you get to the entry gates.

Together we can make this the Best! Pride! Ever!


Now Is the Time for Love: A Joint Statement with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission

Así somos, by Tania Cataldo

Alongside our colleagues at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, we issued this statement today, in light of the recent anniversaries of the Pulse and Charleston massacres, each of which came during a week that also saw mass shootings at a San Francisco UPS facility and a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Virginia. On the eve of the 47th Annual SF LGBTQ Pride Parade and the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s famed Summer of Love, now is the time to come together and proclaim our commitment to love, justice, and peace. (PDF here.)

 

Last week saw the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse night club in Orlando, FL on Latin Night. Some 49 people, most young, LGBTQ, and Latinx, lost their lives to hate. Just a few days later in San Francisco, a UPS driver opened fire at his workplace, killing four, including himself. That same day a gunman in Alexandria, VA opened fire on congressional representatives practicing on a baseball field: many were wounded; one remains in critical condition. And Saturday, June 17th brought the two-year anniversary of the Charleston Church Massacre in which nine African Americans worshipping at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were gunned down by a white supremacist who sought to incite a race war.

Regardless of motive, or weapon, or number of victims, all murders are reprehensible, and should continue to shock, even as they become less and less surprising.

On the eve of LGBTQ Pride weekend in San Francisco and the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, we call for all community members, across the spectrum of political belief and personal identity, to embrace what unites us with more passion than we are drawn to what divides us. And to act on that embrace of love to create equitable and just communities. Violence is never a solution. In almost every dilemma, love–whether of peace, of justice, of community, or of family–always is.

As organizations founded on the respect for human dignity and the value of equity, we know the power of communities, united. We invite you all to join us at the upcoming SF LGBT Pride gatherings for allies and LGBTQI community members of all backgrounds: come to pre-Trans March youth activities, an LGBTQ family brunch the morning of the Dyke March, or march with us at the San Francisco’s LGBTQ Pride Parade on Sunday. See ourfamily.org for event details or sf-hrc.org for more information.

In solidarity,

Renata Moreira

Executive Director, Our Family Coalition

 

Susan Belinda Christian

Commission Chair, San Francisco Human Rights Commission

Baby Boy

Guest Post by Nicole Opper

Nicole and Kristan document their journey into the foster care system to adopt a child in their new comedic documentary web series The F Word: a Foster to Adopt Story. Our Family Coalition is proud to be a supporter of the film and a co-presenter of its screenings at Frameline Film Festival. Below, Nicole shares a morsel of their story. Come for more at the screenings June 18th at the Roxie in San Francisco, or June 20th at the Elmwood in Berkeley.


When my cell phone rang I thought it was going to be our social worker calling about two siblings we’d seen photos of earlier that day in her office. It’s a bizarre monthly ritual: showing up to leaf through the new collection of flyers featuring foster children awaiting homes. Some of these children reappear month after month. Others are new faces. Their descriptions say things like “Enjoys playing soccer” or “Has an infectious smile,” before divulging the inevitable traumas they’ve faced.

We had made the decision to build our family through fost-adoption two years earlier and signed up for parent training classes at a local agency. We were open to any child age 0-4 and were told that it would be about a two year wait because everyone wants little kids. For awhile we thought about taking on an older kid, but knew this was unrealistic for us – we live in a tiny rent-controlled apartment in Oakland, and to leave this apartment would mean to leave the Bay Area altogether. Many of our friends had already been priced out. So we decided to stick to our guns, and two years later, almost to the month, I was answering this phone call, expecting to hear about next steps for the two little girls who had captured our hearts that morning, a two year old and her six year old sister. Not only had we broken our age rule but we’d doubled our number to two, deciding we’d make up for our lack of space with boundless love and plenty of outdoor adventures.

But the call about the siblings never came. In the time it had taken us to see their flyer and inquire about them, another family had already been selected. This was the third potential match that we’d gotten our hopes up about but that ultimately fell through.

The call was, in fact, about a baby. “Baby Boy” was what they called him, because he hadn’t been given a name. When I think back to the day we were told about him, none of it seems real. For one thing, my wife and I were already starting to feel pretty cynical about the whole process. Either we’d see a kid and get excited but wouldn’t be picked by their social worker, or we’d be picked but then it would fall through for other reasons. We knew this was part of the deal; that adoptions through foster care were messy and hard, that there would be joy but also profound grief. We just didn’t expect it to take so long to even be considered. Was it the gay thing? Our small home? Our income level?

We were told it was a concurrent planning case, which means there was a chance Baby Boy would be reunified with birth family. Were we still interested?

“Yes,” we replied.

Well okay then, we’d hear by the end of the day if we were selected. We spent the day wondering if the Yentas of the child welfare system would deem us to be a match. Sure, Baby Boy’s social worker had a thirty page document cataloging most of our major life choices, but how do degrees, careers, hobbies and the cities we grew up in add up to any sense of whether we’d be the right parents for a particular kid? Most kids in the system aren’t there because of abuse or abandonment. Most are there due to neglect. Poverty is an indicator for neglect, and the idea that there are kids in foster care who wouldn’t be there to begin with if their parents had received the support they needed was not only unjust but completely heartbreaking. This system treats the symptom instead of the cause, yet we put our faith in the process, because a broken foster care system doesn’t get fixed by those who ignore it, but by those who engage with it.

And then the call came. At 5pm later that day we were told we’d been selected. We would have a disclosure meeting the following week where we’d receive information about the child’s history and his needs. We knew next to nothing about him, but we knew he had a story, one written onto his heart and his body if not his conscious mind. It was a story that included two months of doctors, nurses, social workers and even volunteer ‘cuddlers’, but began months earlier in his mother’s womb, and centuries before that with his ancestors. We knew so little, but one thing we were clear about: our task was as much to honor this child’s story as it would be to care for him.

The F Word: a Foster to Adopt Story screens at  Frameline June 18th and June 20th and streams on PBS Digital Studios in the Fall. On Twitter/Instagram/Facebook @thefwordseries.