OUR GAY PARENTING AND ADOPTION JOURNEY
This was all happening back in 1992, and we didn’t have the Internet yet. I saw an episode of Sally Jesse Raphael in which she was talking to the author of an adoption guide. I wrote down the information and called to order it immediately. The book was filled with resources and information about every kind of adoption, from International adoption requirements to open and closed adoptions to foster parenting. I quickly singled out an adoption agency in Chicago and called to get us into an orientation meeting. The meeting started off with a very conservative looking woman, dressed all buttoned up in black with a broach in the middle of her skinny, white, wrinkled neck. The first thing she said was this:
“If you are an unmarried couple, you may as well save yourself some time and just leave this orientation now. This agency does not, under any circumstance adopt any child out to any couple who isn’t willing to commit through matrimony.”
I shot a concerned look at my partner and he whispered, “That couldn’t possibly apply to us. We CAN’T get married.” and so we stayed and listened to the entire lecture about the challenges of adoption. It felt like they were trying to scare everybody away from adopting children. When I later discovered that this place was a modern day orphanage that receives 10 times more in subsidy, per child in their care, than a foster parent does, I understood why they wanted to keep those kids locked up until the checks stopped coming in. Not having a clue about how the system works back then, I went along with my partner when he requested a private consultation with the old bitty who had just bored me to tears. Her reaction to us was shocking.
“If I told my supervisor that I have a gay couple in here that wants to adopt a child, she would laugh me out of her office.”
That’s what the bitch said. She followed it up with some remarks about teen boys in the orphanage who had been sexually abused and how the system just doesn’t trust gays. She told me if I really wanted to help kids that I should become a volunteer and just help them. I told her I was glad to volunteer my time to help any child in need, and she handed me a card to an inner city daycare center for low income families. Before I left, I just had to tell her this:
“Woman, you are pure evil, and you are keeping children out of loving homes. Whether you keep one child or a thousand children from ever knowing the love on even one parent, you have committed far worse sin than any homosexual ever intended to. If I am going to hell, I can certainly look forward to seeing you there as well. Have a nice day.”
No sooner had I reached the exit door when the tears came flooding out of me. The pain was unbearable. It can only compare to the loss of a loved one, only this was like losing a loved one I could never have. That’s when my partner promised me that he would make sure that we adopted a child, no matter what. His determination convinced me that it was true, and it was.
We learned that we didn’t have to go through any adoption agency to adopt in our state. We could adopt right through children and family services, using their free home study classes and evaluation and the required foster parenting classes. We also discovered that adoption was just like the military at that time. It was all about Don’t ask Don’t tell. Adoption was never about making a gay activist statement for us. It was about completing our family. And so we decided that one of us would adopt the child and later on, the other would co adopt. This would prevent the media mess that being the first openly gay couple in our state to adopt would generate. It would also increase our chances of getting a child, since single parents are preferred over gay ones. The trouble was, our case workers were not blind, and I never went into hiding. I was there for every home review and interview. I just said, “I live here in exchange for cooking and cleaning and I will be the child’s caregiver.” In reality, it wasn’t a lie. Still, it would take a over a year and one last miracle before we would have a baby in our arms. Every case worker assigned to our case had told us it would not likely ever happen, but we never gave up. I called the inner city daycare center on the card the old bitty gave me, and arranged an interview with the head start program director. I volunteered as an assistant daycare teacher for most of a school year, and was hired at $5 an hour to assist full time for a second year at this preschool. I loved those kids and they loved me, but it was not adoption. If anything, it left me feeling emptier inside when I had to say goodbye to my preschool graduates.
It was a sheer accident that led to the placement of our first baby boy. We had no intention of becoming foster parents, but in order to adopt, we had to have the condo licensed for foster care. And so it was in error that my partner’s name somehow managed to get mistakenly put on a foster parenting invitation list. He was invited to an event which involved seasoned foster parents discussing ways to improve the foster care system. At first, I told him not to waste his time, because we weren’t planning to become foster parents. Something inside of him told him to go. Perhaps it was curiosity. Perhaps it was fate. All I know is that this meeting changed our lives forever, and here’s how.
There were about 50 or so people all seated in folding chairs in front of a podium where speakers were addressing them with speeches. One foster parenting couple received an award for 25 years of fostering over 150 children. The event ended with a Q and A session, in which each of the foster parents were asked to stand up and offer their advice on improving the system. When it was my partner’s turn to stand up, he did, and he said this:
“I’m trying to adopt a child. My home study workers tell me it will never happen. I had never considered foster parenting before, but after hearing all of your stories, I believe I could be a foster parent. I want a permanent placement, but I am willing to love any child who needs me.”
Upon hearing this, a woman stood up in the back of the room, and she told my partner to meet with her afterwards. Her name was Barbara, and she was a child placement advocate. She described her job as being a liaison between parents seeking placement and children seeking homes. She then explained a terminology to my partner that he had never heard of before called “Legal risk placement”. Legal risk placement is when a child enters the foster care system and it is quickly discovered that there is a slim chance he or she will be returned to their biological family. She explained that if we were willing to take in a legal risk child, we could have a child placed with us within two weeks who would most likely become adoptable in the near future, pending the red tape and court custody rulings. Two weeks later, we got a call from her, and our first son showed up on our doorstep.
It took over two years to get through the court cases and clear him for adoption, and he could have been removed from our home at any point, without explanation during that time. Once the adoption was final, we all took a deep sigh of relief. Our journey had finally come to an end, or so we thought! The story of how we came to adopt our second child, who is the actual biological brother of our first son, is another miracle that I will share with you all another day.
I hope this blog has opened your mind to the potential for gay parenting and adoption. There are over 129,000 children awaiting an adoptive home in the USA. Through gay parenting and adoption, we can bring these kids into adulthood by meeting the same needs that any heterosexual couple could.
Please visit and bookmark my official website at http://www.chazonator.com/