Darren Vance: Executive Director of Rainbow Families

Pride Month is the perfect time to highlight the important work of Rainbow Families. Rainbow Families provides vital resources and education to LGBTQ+ families and prospective parents. Their programming allows LGBTQ+ families to connect with one another, learn from their experiences, and explore the different pathways to parenthood. As the Executive Director, Darren points families in the direction of resources they need to start families and keep them safe.

How did you get affiliated with Rainbow Families?


My husband of 25 years and I adopted our son from Guatemala 17 years ago. We were missing the opportunity to connect with other LGBTQ families. When my son was about 7, we discovered Rainbow Families. We built really dear friendships and got involved in their diverse programming. I had worked on an intense corporate path my whole career, but after suffering a life-changing medical event four years ago I knew I needed to make a change. The board recommended that I step up as Executive Director, and after an interview process the rest is history.


How did Rainbow Families get its start?


Rainbow Families has been around for 30 years. Up until recently, creating family in the LGBTQ community was subversive and illegal. There was a great need for a network of queer families to support each other and share information about what adoption agencies will work with us, what pediatricians to see, and which daycare centers to use. That powerful movement was driven mostly by lesbian moms in the 1980s and a group of gay dads in Virginia who organized social events for LGBTQ families. They realized that there are developmental and self confidence benefits for kids to be around families that look like theirs. Rainbow Families spurred from that movement, and we became a 501(c)3 in 2008.


Can you tell me about your programs?


Maybe Baby is a five-week intense series of workshops that talks about the pathways to parenthood. It’s a safe space for prospective parents to ask questions without judgment. We talk about the financial aspects, the different options for how to become parents, and the legal steps they need to take to protect their families. Some of the Maybe Baby alumni sit on a parent panel where prospective parents can come and ask questions about their experience starting families. We also have tons of support groups that cover a broad range of subjects, like adoption, divorce, grief and loss, and being a parent of color. Those support groups are led by therapists and social workers who donate their time. On the fun side, we host dances, picnics, playdates, and camping weekends. Our families are so involved, both the kids and parents get to be in a safe space and feel free to be themselves.


How do you help your families feel safe and supported during Pride Month and beyond?


Education is a big part of that. We have doubled down on making sure that our community is aware of some impending legislative roadblocks. For example, many adoptive parents assume that because they are married, then their children are legally tied to both parents and that is not the case. Birth certificates were invented under a heteronormative scale and needs to be read a certain way to confer parental rights. Part of our education is making sure that all parents get a second parent adoption, which is a court order that sets in stone those parental rights. I’m also currently working hard on creating a legal expert panel of LGBTQ attorneys to do a monthly program for our parents. There is so much misinformation out there and it’s important that our community hears from experts who understand the issues at hand.