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Triangle Community Center launches Family Series

By Steve Kobak for the Norwalk Hour

NORWALK -- The Triangle Community Center launched its series of programs focusing on parenting and building and planning families in the lesbian and gay community Saturday with a panel discussion geared toward couples preparing for adoption, surrogacy or in vitro fertilization.

Many couples in attendance at "Getting Started: A Lunch & Learn on LGBTQ Family Building" were seriously considering having children or were well into the process of adoption, surrogacy or in vitro fertilization. Mark Leondires, medical director and lead infertility doctor with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMA of CT), Dr. Lisa Tuttle, a psychologist, and Elizabeth Swire Falker, a reproductive attorney, discussed the options available for starting a family, the preparation needed for family planning and possible legal issues.

Leondires said he had spoken with Triangle Community Center Executive Director Anthony Crisci about starting an educational series, addressing LGBTQ family issues, after noticing a lack of such programs in the area. He said the community center is known for its educational programs as well as its support groups, and similar organizations in New York City also offer educational programs for parenting.

"Fairfield County is actually very family friendly for same sex couples," Leondires said.

Leondires began the discussion by presenting all of the options available for surrogacy or in vitro fertilization and discussing what would be required for each option.

Falker detailed the complications that arise for parents when "not all states will recognize your parental rights" and possible legal remedies for same sex parents. Falker also spoke at length about the importance of concrete language in surrogate contracts, egg donation agreements, known sperm donation agreements and gestational surrogacy agreements.

Tuttle discussed the pros and cons of having known, unknown and open door policy sperm donors.

"Almost all kids are curious about their donors," she said. "There's nothing pathological about children wanting to know their donor. It's a very normal curiosity."

Tuttle said all persons, irregardless of their sexuality or gender identity, that use a sperm donor or donor eggs are required to do an interview with a mental health professional. She said psychologists can also assist in crucial decisions, such as which partner will be genetically connected to the child.

The Triangle Community Center's family series will continue with a five-week "Mindful Parenting" workship series, beginning on April 21. Those wishing to enroll in the workshops must register, and information on registration and fees can be found on the Triangle Community Center website (www.ctgay.org).

"We can design our parenting any way we want to, and it actually starts before we have children," said Jami Patterson, a mother of three children and board member at Triangle Community Center.