One of our goals at Daddy Squared is to help create communities for gay dads and prospective dads. The LGBT Network has been doing exactly that in Long Island and Queens for seven years now. With an amazing number and variety of events for LGBTQ families, and with constant care for the prospective dad community, the LGBT Network is becoming not only a physical place to hang out, but also a good information resource for gay dads in the area.
“One of the LGBT Network’s strengths is that our staff is representative of the populations we serve here in the area,” explains Mark Mihopulos, LGBT Families Program Coordinator, who connects between gay dads in the area. “As a gay father myself, I am both organizing opportunities for community building and family building and I am also engaging as a parent and with my own family, including my husband and son. LGBT parents are building relationships with me and sharing openly their hopes and dreams for this program.”LGBTQ Family Programs in Long Island and Queens
Mihopulos met his husband Andrew late in 2010 and began dating in early 2011. Four years later they got married. “In late 2016, we began exploring pathways to parenthood and in 2017 we learned about You Gotta Believe, an older child adoption agency and we knew that a teenager fit our life and our reasons for wanting to become fathers: to give a young person the love and support they needed to grow into a confident and happy person. We completed our foster parent classes at the LGBT Network, where I now work. Everything comes full circle, as I originally came to the LGBT Network as a youth for their LGBT youth programs on Friday nights. Now, I support my community, giving back to this amazing organization that has supported me as a teen, a parent and now a leader for LGBT Families.”
In his role of Families Program Coordinator, Mark makes himself available for parents and families to contact. “Recently I spoke with a mother who was concerned that her young child, who identifies as Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC), does not have TGNC peers. I connected her with another parent with a similar family and they are going to meet up at our next LGBT Family Movie Night. Facebook messenger is the interface where the majority of LGBT parents contact me and I speak with parents on a daily basis about everything from upcoming programs to difficult family situations they are experiencing and how they can utilize our program as a support. I feel a great deal of gratitude that LGBT parents feel so comfortable sharing personal experiences with me and that I have the resources with which to help them.”
Gay Parent Meet-ups
According to Mark, there’s a regular LGBT Parent Meet-ups out in the community, that helps LGBT parents connect with each other, and most of the events and the development of the program, actually stems from personal requests of the parents.
“Recently several families requested more programs for very young children, including infants and toddlers,” he says, “so we will be organizing those types of events for this summer. We also collaborate with local organizations and resources, like those that support foster families and those that engage in specialized activities like music and movement to engage families with these opportunities together. On Long Island, we have such a rich variety of local outings that families can enjoy together, including museums, a great aquarium, amusement parks, beaches and more. Our process is family-centered, so if we learn from our families that there is an interest, we will incorporate that interest into the programs!”
Like us at Daddy Squared, The LGBT Network’s LGBT Family Building Program also sees prospective dads as part of the LGBT parents’ community. Therefore it offers comprehensive, personalized responsive and support to LGBT prospective parents.
“I offer informational workshops about family building and collaborate with resources like the local Departments of Social Services, adoption agencies, IVF clinics and foster family organizations to provide up-to-date and accurate information to help prospective parents learn about the various pathways to parenthood. I also encourage parents-to-be to call and set up personalized consults with me, to better understand their individual needs and hopes in order to better connect them with resources and information that fits their situation.”
Mark Mihopulos is available to support couples and individuals throughout every stage of the process to parenthood, to find useful answers to questions, to provide referrals to needed organizations, attorneys, social workers, counselors, and other professionals and to provide emotional support.