The old playground song goes "First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes baby in the baby carriage."
This week marks one year since California gays won the right to marry. And while gay and lesbian families raising children is nothing new, Los Angeles-based RaiseAChild.US reports an uptick in the past year among those looking to adopt.
RaiseAChild.US works with the LGBT community to encourage fostering and adopting children, especially in the Los Angeles area. Founded in 2011, the nonprofit group works with eight Southern California agencies to match children with parents.
The foster care system in Los Angeles County currently serves about 36,000 children. Hundreds of those need adoptive families.
"For prospective parents who are unsure about making a long-term commitment, fostering provides an opportunity to 'test the waters' and experience the realities of parenting before deciding to pursue adopting," said Corinne Lightweaver of RaiseAChild.US.
Homes are especially needed for children over 5. Also, LGBT teenagers rejected by their families need safe, welcoming homes, Lightweaver added. African American and Latino parents are urgently needed.
Actor and comedian Alec Mapa, who starred in "Ugly Betty" and makes regular appearances on ABC's "Switched at Birth," is among thousands of gay parents in Los Angeles. He adopted his son Zion, 9, four years ago with husband Jamison Hebert.
"We're just your average same-sex couple, tri-racial family down the street," joked Mapa, whose performance film "Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy" will show at the upcoming Outfest Film Festival on July 11 at 5:00 p.m.
Mapa said he and Hebert wanted an older child and had no preference on race. They adopted Zion through the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Mapa's best friend, actress and comedian Amy Hill, recommended and had also used the county. She is best known for playing Margaret Cho's grandma on the 1994 ABC sitcom "All American Girl."
Christopher Brown and Gary Bittner of Laguna Beach adopted two children, brothers, through Orange County Social Services. They first served as foster parents to Kael and Tyler, now 10 and 14. They knew they wanted children of school age, simply for child care purposes.
Brown, Mapa and Lightweaver all noted that the process of adoption can be lengthy.
Brown said he and Bittner were honest with their social worker from the beginning. They indicated they would have difficulty letting go of a foster child if he or she were reunified with the mother, which frequently happens. Kael and Tyler were orphans - their mom died in a car accident and "dad wasn't around," Brown said.
Brown and Bittner delight in their boys, whom they brought home on Thanksgiving Day, 2008.
Mapa and Hebert adore Zion, too. The son of showbiz parents, Zion proclaimed on the red carpet at Outfest Fusion, "I like being famous."
Mapa admits Zion's dads have rubbed off on the boy. He recalled chiding him at the supermarket recently for acting up, and giving him a serious lecture about respecting others.
"Zion looked at me and said, 'And the Oscar goes to...'" Mapa said with a laugh.
By David Heitz, Brand Publishing Writer