MAFA: Where LGBT Families Support, Share and Socialize
The Midwest Alternative Families Alliance (MAFA) supports LGBT-headed families within and beyond the greater Kansas City area. It maintains a network of LGBT parents for mentoring among the group, using both life experience and resource-sharing, and its members gather for social events.
MAFA members foster a community that is respectful, encouraging and inclusive. They are united in their promotion of awareness and respect for LGBT parents and their children to the general public.
MAFA started with a very small group in 2002. Two in the group were professors at UMKC, and the rest were students or former students of those professors. MAFA incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group in 2005. The formal incorporation of MAFA was primarily based on social and support needs.
When MAFA was formed, the Missouri Department of Social Services was not allowing lesbians and gays to serve as foster parents, and this was one topic for discussion among members. That rule has since been overturned, but LGBT parents in Missouri and Kansas still do not enjoy full legal protections, e.g., in the workplace.
Even though the group has grown rapidly, MAFA leaders want to keep it intimate so that all members may know each other, encouraging a sense of diversity among the families and letting kids with LGBT parents see other moms and dads who are similar to their own.
Growing and nurturing families are key values at MAFA. The growth of a family might include adoption, surrogacy, or step-parenting. And the adoptions could be foreign, domestic or second-parent. It can help to talk to others who have been through some of the legal twists and turns involved with these options.
The MAFA website (kcmafa.org) hosts an online discussion group and provides a list of resources about LGBT parenting issues. Some other examples of shared resources and information include access to member-preferred pediatricians, financial advisers, therapists, attorneys, etc.
MAFA is also cooperating with local documentary filmmaker Lisa Marie Evans on her new project about LGBT families called Gayby Boom (gaybyboomfilm.com).
MAFA president Anne Snider says the group welcomes extended family members, friends, professionals from the community and others who support LGBT families. MAFA families have kids of all ages — from babies to teenagers. Some MAFA parents are single, and some are partnered. Some have established households with children, while others are in the planning stages.
Over time, it became clear that many of these people looking to support or form families were also looking for a regular social network. They wanted playmates for the children and new friendships among the adults.
Although most of its energies are now focused on social and networking events, MAFA will occasionally host or participate in a workshop or seminar. This outreach can also let non-member LGBT-headed families know about the group, encourage those thinking of starting families and educate others who may not have families or be aware that organizations like MAFA exist.
MAFA held its first family picnic in 2007. It was so successful that the group now hosts two picnics per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. Dinner for 8 is a chance for the adults to get together in small groups while someone else babysits. Other activities have included bowling, skating and trips to the zoo.
After discovering that their 2010 spring picnic conflicted with the Kansas City Gay Pride festival, MAFA leaders graciously rescheduled the picnic to an earlier date. Kansas City Gay Pride president Rick Bumgardner informed the group about this year’s KidZone at the Pride Festival, June 5-6. Happy Faces Entertainment will present an afternoon show on June 5, and there will be face-painting, balloon animal twists, several inflatable amusements, hundreds of toy animals for give-aways, prizes, lawn games, blankets, books, coloring and more.
To find out more about MAFA’s spring family picnic or membership information, email the group at contact@kcmafa,org.