Alec Mapa: Social Workers are Unsung Heroes in Foster Care, Adoption
Actor and comedian Alec Mapa has been in the entertainment business for more than 25 years, often playing quirky characters with larger-than-life personalities.
The San Francisco native has appeared in a variety of television shows and films, including “Ugly Betty,” “Marley and Me,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Desperate Housewives.”
However, the biggest role he and husband Jamison Herbert have taken on is becoming the adoptive parents of Zion, who was five years old when they first met him in 2009.
Social workers played a key role in that process, Mapa said. In fact, the couple had met Zion and planned to adopt him but that fell through when Zion was placed with a relative.
However, a chance phone call by a social worker discovered the family placement had failed and Zion needed an immediate home. Mapa and Herbert accepted the call and never looked back.
In honor of National Adoption Month, Mapa talked to SocialWorkersSpeak.org about the adoption process and the role of social workers in Zion’s adoption:
Q: What made you and your husband consider adopting? Â
Mapa: My husband and I always loved kids and Â enjoyed Â spending time with our nieces and nephews but never really considered the possibility of having our own until Â I was booked to perform on an R Family Cruise. R FamilyÂ is a Â travel company that books vacations Â for LGBT families. Seeing gay and lesbian couples with their kids Â cemented the idea that we could be Â parents as well. I ignorantly Â thought that only rich people Â could adopt kids. After attending a number of Â foster adoption seminars on the ship and meeting parents who had adopted through foster care we decided that that Â was the Â route we were going to take.
Q: How did social workers help you through this experience?
Mapa: I can Â honestly say I would not be a parent today if it weren’t for the Â amazing social workers who took Â care of us at the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency. I had met the agency’s Â program directorÂ (National Association of Social Workers member Robyn Harrod, MSW) on the ship and Robyn said as soon as we were ready to Â adopt Â to call her. We did, enrolled in the classes and we became certified foster adopt Â parents. The Â social workers Â at the agency educated us about the kids in the system, what kind of situations they were in, and what was required of us as potential parents .They Â also Â offered continued support and invaluable resources after Â our placement happened. The whole thing happened Â very quickly and our social workers were Â instrumental in making the match happen. They are the unsung heroes of foster youth and potential parents everywhere.
Alec Mapa and actresses Betty White and Vanessa Williams in a scene from Ugly Betty. Photo courtesy of Philadelphia City paper.
Q: The National Association of Social Workers supports adoption and fosters by people who are LGBT. However, there has been some resistance to this in some states. Do you think this attitude is changing?
Mapa: Yes and here’s why: There Â are 400,000 Â kids in the Â foster care system and 100,000 won’t be Â reunited with their Â parents and Â are up for Â adoption. Sixty-five percentÂ of Â kids who age out of the system emancipate with no place to live and 51 percent are unemployed. Forty percent of people living in homeless Â shelters are former foster children and Â a disproportionate Â number of Â our nation’s prison population is made up of Â former foster youth. All because some Â kid through no fault of their own had no place Â to land. ANYONE with a Â sense Â of Â decency and fairness has to agree that every child Â deserves a safe, loving, permanent home.
Q: How did you get involved with RaiseAChild.US, which encourages people from the LGBT community to become foster parents or adopt?
Mapa: I live in Los Angeles and Â I knew them all from The Pop Luck Club, which is the gay dads organization out here. They needed someone with a big mouth to be their Â spokesperson, and I had written Â an entire solo showÂ called “Baby Daddy” about how my husband and I Â adopted our Â son. They came to the show and Â decided I was the big mouth they were looking for.
Q: Where can social workers see your work? What projects are you in?
Mapa: The Â live concert version of “Baby Daddy” was filmed this summer and will Â be Â shown in theater festivals Â early next year. In the meantime, I’ve just joined the cast of ABC Family’s “Switched At Birth” Â for their Â third Â season and those Â episodes start airing in January!