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Alec Mapa: Social Workers are Unsung Heroes in Foster Care, Adoption

From left: actor and comedian Alec Mapa, son Zion, and husband Jamison Herbert. Screen shot courtesy of  Alec Mapa's "Baby Daddy" Kickstarter website.

From left: actor and comedian Alec Mapa, son Zion, and husband Jamison Herbert. Screen shot courtesy of Alec Mapa’s “Baby Daddy” Kickstarter website.

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?  

Mapa: My husband and I always loved kids and  enjoyed  spending time with our nieces and nephews but never really considered the possibility of having our own until  I was booked to perform on an R Family Cruise. R Family  is a  travel company that books vacations  for LGBT families. Seeing gay and lesbian couples with their kids  cemented the idea that we could be  parents as well. I ignorantly  thought that only rich people  could adopt kids. After attending a number of  foster adoption seminars on the ship and meeting parents who had adopted through foster care we decided that that  was the  route we were going to take.

Q: How did social workers help you through this experience?

Mapa: I can  honestly say I would not be a parent today if it weren’t for the  amazing social workers who took  care of us at the Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency. I had met the agency’s  program director  (National Association of Social Workers member Robyn Harrod, MSW) on the ship and Robyn said as soon as we were ready to  adopt  to call her. We did, enrolled in the classes and we became certified foster adopt  parents. The  social workers  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  also  offered continued support and invaluable resources after  our placement happened. The whole thing happened  very quickly and our social workers were  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.

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  are 400,000  kids in the  foster care system and 100,000 won’t be  reunited with their  parents and  are up for  adoption. Sixty-five percent  of  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  shelters are former foster children and  a disproportionate  number of  our nation’s prison population is made up of  former foster youth. All because some  kid through no fault of their own had no place  to land. ANYONE with a  sense  of  decency and fairness has to agree that every child  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  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  spokesperson, and I had written  an entire solo show  called “Baby Daddy” about how my husband and I  adopted our  son. They came to the show and  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  live concert version of “Baby Daddy” was filmed this summer and will  be  shown in theater festivals  early next year. In the meantime, I’ve just joined the cast of ABC Family’s “Switched At Birth”  for their  third  season and those  episodes start airing in January!

Social workers play a key role in helping create new families for children through adoption, finding foster homes for children who need care and protection, and working to reunite children with their families whenever possible. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Adoptions and Foster Care website.
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1 Comment

  1. This interview is awesome! What a sincere and compassionate person Alec Mapa is! He and his husband are the unsung heroes of foster children! I am glad he is using his voice and experience to speak out. I am sure he will help many children find their forever families!! Thank you Alec!!

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