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A New Kid


Richard Norway

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Well gang, the summer doldrums are over, at least for me. I've got a kid in school that started on August 18th so my fall started early. Oh yeah, you don't know about him yet. Well, I'll get to that, but first let me tell you about my Spring and Summer, and why I've been away.

After 4 1/2 years of hard work, David and I have finally opened the first gay and lesbian community center in Las Cruces. No big deal you say? It is. It's the first gay and lesbian community center in Las Cruces and the only one in the state of New Mexico. I wish that you could feel the elation that I feel in being able to do something to bring the fractured and isolated GLBTQ community a hope of becoming a family...a community here in New Mexico. We incorporated in New Mexico 2 years ago and received our non-profit status from the IRS the same year. We had thought about what we wanted to do, to become, and realized that this wasn't about us...this was about the community. So, we applied for and received a grant from the Gamma Mu Foundation to do the first ever GLBTQ focused state wide needs assessment of what the community needed. We were not about to try to impose our thoughts on what was needed, but wanted to know what was REALLY needed hand carried our final report was send to every state representative and senator. Our Center programs are based on those findings of youth and seniors. We had a soft opening in March and had our official grand opening in June to coincide with the Pride picnic and march parade through downtown. We had events going from Friday through Sunday. On Friday there was a coalition building workshop where we had representatives from Equality New Mexico, PFLAG New Mexico, Interpride (the national Pride organization) and Centerlink (the national organization of gay and lesbian centers). That evening we had a family movie night. Saturday morning was our official ribbon cutting ceremony. OMG! We had sent out invitations to everybody, and guess what? They showed up. We had City officials there along with county commissioners, state representatives, representatives for our state senators, from both of our US senators, one from our US representative and someone reading a letter from our Lt. governor. This a first in New Mexico. That Saturday we had a booth at the Pride picnic in the park and offered a free shuttle service (which cost us dearly) between the park and the center, which was only a few blocks away, David manned the center while I manned the booth. Albersons market donated a marvelous cake for the open house at the center with a wonderful picture of the center on top in the frosting., Of course, we had to take home the leftovers. Saturday evening we had an invitation only reception at our home for the high rollers to get them to donate, but it wasn't attended so well. Santorini's Restaurant donated a wonderful array of Mediterranean food and Saint Clair Winery donated the wines. Sunday morning we hosted an interfaith symposium at the center where we had 7 representatives from the areas various churches come and discuss homosexuality and the church. 35 people showed up for that event, and we're continuing that dialog with the churches.

What I'm getting from the response to our opening is that they want us here. We're the first, and I hear things like, "It's about time," We're behind you." and "What can we do to help." I'd say that I'm in 7th heaven, but I think I just passed on to number 8.

So far we have 14 social and support groups meeting there. AA has a group meeting there, ALANON meets there along with a parenting of gay kids group, a men's group, a trans group and many others.

I could go on and on about the groups that are meeting there, but what's more important to me is the social services that we're providing. The state health department, through a two full day training session, has certified us as an HIV testing site. We received a grant from a private foundation to initiate an HIV prevention program and counseling services are available.

We've started a youth center to get the kids involved, but more than that, it's about them making the right choices in life, a social gathering spot, suicide prevention and life skills training.

You all don't know how excited this 65 year old is. My dreams are coming true.

So that's what's been taking my time away from you all.

Okay, now on to Nathaniel.

The two foster kids that were placed with us have moved on. One had to be admitted to a hospital because of homicidal tendencies and the other older boy moved on to independent (although transitional) housing apartments. The older boy, 18 y/o, had a friend in Albuquerque that had moved to Las Cruces. They met up again on MySpace and found out that they lived only a few blocks apart, so his friend (Nathaniel) started to spend some time at our house, One morning I saw that Nathaniel was still here. I questioned him and found out that he was afraid to go home. He was afraid of his father. David and I sat him down and explained his options (as he was now considered a runaway). We told him that his best option was to talk to his dad and work it out, which he eventually did. I asked him how it went and he said fine, but i didn't believe him.

About a month ago, he called me at 11:00 pm on a Friday night and was in tears. He asked me if he could come over and hearing how distraught he was, I said of course, without even asking what was wrong. I walked outside and eventually saw him walk up the driveway carrying two small bags. He approached me and threw his arms around me and sobbed. I held him and it took several minutes for him to get out his story. He had an argument with his dad (and Nathaniel being gay was an issue) and his dad told him to get out, to go live with his mother. He gave him no money (she lives 3 hours away) or transportation. So, Nathaniel is now living with us. I reported his dad to CYFD (Child Youth & Family Department), our child protective services state department, as I'm a licensed foster parent and a mandatory reporter.l As far as I'm concerned, this is a clear case of abandonment. We have a meeting set up for Tuesday with dear old dad, me, and adoption agency and CYFD this coming Tuesday. My God, if Nathaniel gets hurt, right now I have no authority to get him medical attention. CYFD wants dad to sign at least a power of attorney for me. As far as I'm concerned, this kid has suffered enough and needs a family, which he's never had, and the dad can go to jail. Nathaniel agree with me

Anyway, that's how I've got a kid living with us. I know there'll be a lot of questions from you all, so go ahead and ask. Are we at risk? Did we put ourselves in harms way? Yeah, we did. But this kid's future is more important.

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"I know there'll be a lot of questions from you all, so go ahead and ask."You bet. Is the father likely to be a danger to Nathaniel, and to you, in your home? How old is Nathaniel? Why did he end up living with you and not his mother? Is he feeling better, more secure, more loved, now he's with you? Please accept this e-hug in appreciation of the care and love you are devoting to Nathaniel and the other youngsters who've benefitted from your hospitality. I hope Nathaniel is able to settle with you and wallow in the loving, peaceful home that you share with him. I wish I could come visit!

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Bruin,No, Nathaniel's father is not going to be a danger for either me or Nathaniel. The truth is that he really doesn't want Nathaniel. At the meeting that we had with Child Protective Services, he lied through his teeth. Nathaniel's therapist later told me that she couldn't believe what went on in that meeting. The facilitator is a closeted lesbian and seemed to have sympathy with Nathaniel's father. The format was such that each person had a chance to speak and not be interrupted by anyone else. Nathaniel was the last to speak. Nathaniel doesn't express his emotions well verbally, but what he did was finally speak his mind. He turned toward the wall so that he wasn't speaking directly to anyone and said that he would not go back to live with his dad. He couldn't stop his tears and someone got up and handed him a box of tissues. I looked at his father and I couldn't see any emotion on his face as his son was so badly hurting. Then I told myself that Nathaniel needs to know that he's alright and loved so I put my hand on his shoulder to reassure him. Nathaniel, and everyone else in that room then knew who really loved him.Nathaniel is 17 and will be 18 in a few months so all of this wrangling over guardianship will be mute then.His mother lives in Albuquerque (a three hour drive away from Las Cruces) and Nathaniel had no way of getting there. But more than that, she's not able to take care of him either financially or emotionally.Nathaniel has a boyfriend who's 20 and he and I have talked a lot about Nathaniel. He's told me what a change he's seen in Nathaniel, his feeling loved for the first time in his life. His boyfriend (also named David) is so happy that Nathaniel is with my David and I.My biggest problem....My David and I are part of an organizing committee for the Red Ribbon Bash. It's a gala event to raise money for people with HIV and AIDs for medications, living assistance, etc. We expect 300+ people there tonight. I'm in charge of check-in/check-out which involves collecting all of the money from the silent auction. I have 20 volunteers that I'm overseeing and Nathaniel and his boyfriend are a part of that. My biggest problem is getting Nathaniel to wear a tie. LOL

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Thanks for answering my nosey questions, Richard. The lad's father seems like a real nut-job. For any parent not to want their child makes my stomach churn, I've seen too much of it close to home not to be affected whenever I hear of it. I care so much for my grandkids and there's not even a blood relationship (I'm their step-grandfather) I can't stomach anyone rejecting any child. Your sentence 'The truth is that he really doesn't want Nathaniel' affects me powerfully. I'm so pleased you're there for poor Nathaniel. To have to speak his mind like that must have really taken it out of him.My grandson never wears a tie, and comes to me for help when he occasionally needs to. And, to my shame, I can only tie a tie for him by standing behind him - I can't tie his tie facing him!

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