Gay Adoption

Your Adopted Child Just Asked the “Mommy” Question. What Now?

Five tips from adoptive gay dads for starting the conversation about birth mothers and families.

Maybe you heard it at the dinner table. Or at the playground. Or reading to your son or daughter before bedtime. “Daddy," your child says tentatively, “do I have a mommy?"

Many gay dads are ready for that question, and many gay dads feel blindsided. To help prepare, here are five tips from adoptive gay dads on how they handled introducing their children to their biological mothers.


1. Work with Your Birth Family to Make a Plan

The best advice for addressing the "mommy question?" Prepare. When you have an open adoption, start a dialogue with the birth mother to help determine a level of involvement comfortable to both you and the birth family. It's important to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong arrangement. The level of involvement will differ slightly with each situation.

Adoptive gay dads Erik and Douglas worked closely with the birth family of their daughter, Allie Mae, to find a level of involvement that works all involved. Their arrangement, for instance, included personal visits and text updates.

"Important milestones made a perfect time to provide these updates," Erik said, who has written about his adoption process extensively for Gays With Kids.

And what if both parties agree that no contact is best for all involved?

Many gay dads in this situation recommend helpful books like And Tango Makes Three or Am I Special? to help explain adoption to their children. Reading to your child from these books consistently can prepare them for understanding why families are different—and why their mommy is (or isn't) part of yours.

2. Don't take your child's questions personally

As your child grows older and starts to ask about their biological family, it's perfectly natural for an adoptive dad to feel anxious. Your mind races with questions: Why is my kid asking this now? Am I doing something wrong? Am I not enough?

Craig Peterson, an adoptive gay dad of six, faced these fears head-on. "The contact with the birth mother centered around my children, not me," he said. "Because the facts could not be changed, I had nothing to fear­ – unless I let my own insecurities get the best of me. I refused to go that route, and with that mindset, I set appropriate boundaries to protect everyone."

Acknowledge your feelings, trust in your own confidence, and explore what is best for your children – not your own pride.

3. Use age appropriate explanations when speaking with you children

Adoption is a beautiful, rewarding way to start a family. However, birth families have a lot of reasons for putting up children for adoption – and not all of them make for an easy explanations. You need to be honest with your child, while also providing appropriate material for your child's age. Only you, as the parent, can determine what type of information to share and when.

Octavius Smiley-Humphries told Gays With Kids that his son's birth mother sadly died from a drug overdose.

"This was very hard to hear as we thought that she was doing better and was preparing to have some role in Julian's life," he said. "We are still figuring out when and how to have the conversation with Julian about his birth mom. We have a beautiful picture album that she gave him for his first birthday that we review and talk to him often about. While we explain to him who the woman in the photos is, we don't talk about her current state."

Adopted children may join your family with fragments or full memories of their birth families. In that case, they may ask more pointed question as they grow older. Therapy may be a helpful developmental tool in this case.

4. Honor your child's birthparents

Every child has a mother; that's just a fact. Some adopted children come from mothers who were perhaps too young to raise a child, while others come from mothers who suffer from addictive or abusive behavior. No matter the history, no matter your own opinions of these women, you need to reserve your judgment for your child.

Nathan Tanner-Braun adopted twins whose parents' rights were terminated in court. "I never speak negatively about biological parents or siblings, but I'm honest and open about who they are," he said. "I try to explain that sometimes mommies and daddies can't always care for their babies how they should and that because their mommies and daddies loved them so much they found other mommies and daddies to take care of them."

"Within the first year of adopting, I saw that I had been judgmental in my thinking," said Craig Peterson. "Birth families did matter to my children. On the plus side, I never said anything disparaging about either birth family to my kids. Otherwise, those unkind words would have forever remained with them and come back to haunt me."

5. Be open and out as an adoptive gay dad

As you can tell from these testimonials, the dreaded "mommy question" isn't unique to your family. Other gay dads have gone through the careful dance of explaining birth families to their children. They are out there, and they are willing to tell their stories.

Smiley-Humphries praised other gay dads he met on social media for sharing their stories so openly. "We had no idea the obstacles we'd face, the questions we'd be asked, the conversations we'd find ourselves in surrounding our family. Having people that have walked our path before to discuss these circumstances with has been beyond beneficial."

Being out as an adoptive dad can also give the other people in your child's life, like teachers or pastors, the information they need to better care for your child—and, in fact, give you support when these difficult questions come up.

But remember—adapt everything to your unique family. Be an active dad, and use any advice to tackle the tough questions head on.

"Every situation is different, and that's OK," said Nathan Tanner-Braun. "What works for one family, may not be appropriate for the next. Do what feels right your family."



Check out these other great resources on adoption:

6 Surprising Facts about Adoption

10 Tips for Saving for Adoption

State Laws and Adoption Advertising

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Independent or private adoption is when the birth parents place the child directly with the adoptive parent or parents without an agency or intermediary. Parents who pursue independent adoption must still enlist the help of adoption lawyers and other professionals to help with the process. Three states do not allow independent adoption - Colorado, Connecticut and Delaware.

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For gay men, creating our families can be expensive. Here are some ideas to help you save for your adoption.

There's little argument that having a family in the U.S is expensive. But for gay men, creating a family can be even more complicated and expensive than it is for our straight counterparts. An adoption process can set you back anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. You might find yourself asking, “How can anyone afford that?" The answer is: The majority of us don't. Those of us that do are forced to find the necessary funds by making savvy financial decisions. Here are some of our suggestions for doing so:

1. Create a Budget (and Stick to it!)

Perhaps the most obvious tip (and we'll break it down further) but don't underestimate the power of saving money where you can. Start paying attention to where your dollars are going – from that morning cup of joe when you're on the run to the bought lunches everyday at work. All of those small purchases add up!

Are you used to eating out regularly? Don't! Cut eating out or date nights to once a month and make it extra special. And extra special doesn't have to mean extra expensive. Think local delicious restaurant, preferably BYOB, and turn your phones off – make it count.

"It is so important to cut any unnecessary spending," shared Edward (not his real name), father of a 1-year-old daughter through adoption. "Keep your goals in sight and plan for the future."

Helpful hint 1: Make your coffee in a to-go cup before you leave the house; take a packed lunch with you to work. Sound simple? That's because it is!

Helpful hint 2: Set aside a change jar and put all your coins in it. At the end of every month, you'll get to hear the sweet sound of "ka-ching" as you put them through the coin machine.

Helpful hint 3: Plan your meals and stick to a grocery budget. Make a list (check it twice) and then don't go off it at the grocery store. Also, use coupons to further cut down on your grocery expenses.

Helpful hint 4: Cut home expenses: Get a less expensive data plan for your mobile phone. Stop wasting electricity. Turn down your A/C. Don't buy the newest phone model. Choose a basic cable package or cut the cord completely and use one online streaming service instead. You probably don't need Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hulu AND Netflix. I mean, how much free time do you have? Amiright?

"It's crazy how much you can save by not eating out, not going out with friends, couponing and sticking to a grocery list," said Ben, dad of two boys through adoption.

​2. Open a Savings Account (and Put Money in it)

Start getting into the habit of transferring money into a separate (preferably hard to touch) savings account every payday. Figure out how much you can afford to save and transfer it as soon as you can.

"We set up a budget where we saved and automatically deducted money from our paychecks into a savings account," explained Ben.

3. Apply for an Adoption Grant

Did you know that there are nonprofits ready and waiting to help couples and singles create their family through adoption? Well, they really do exist! Check out Helpusadopt.org, an organization that offers up to $15,000 for families regardless of martial status, sexual orientation, race, religion, gender or ethnicity. Grants are awarded three times a year. So what are you waiting for? Fill out your application today!

​4. Refinance your Mortgage

Did you buy a house when the interest rates were higher than they are now? Refinance and pocket the difference into your savings account. The same goes for student loans. Shop around folks, shop around.

5. Save your Tax Refund

Ben and his husband used their tax refund as a starting-off point for their savings. But make sure that you're paying the correct tax rate so you don't get a nasty surprise in April. And the adoption tax credit?

"Tax benefits for adoption include both a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child and an exclusion from income for employer-provided adoption assistance. The credit is nonrefundable, which means it's limited to your tax liability for the year. However, any credit in excess of your tax liability may be carried forward for up to five years." – IRS

6. Rent Out a Room (or your Entire House)

If you have a spare room in your home, consider renting it out for a year. Or sign up for AirBnB and play host to vacationers.

​7. Raise Money

From Kickstarter to IndieGoGo to GoFundMe, there are lots of options to put it all out there and ask others for financial donations. Read the Gays With Kids article on crowdfunding.

8. Find your Talent; Get Creative!

We're not all blessed with talents that result in piles of money, but we all have personal interests. These dads turned their passion for renovating and flipping homes into their key ingredient for saving for adoption. Time to start thinking how to turn your skill into a paid resource.

No untapped talent to speak of? Get a second job or try selling some of your things that you no longer need in a yard sale or on Craigslist.

"Get a second job, budget and start living as if you have that child," advised Ben, whose two adoptions cost $71,000 in total. "Children cost money once they get here. Change [your lifestyle] now and save that money!"

9. Check your Employee Benefits

See if your employer provides any financial assistant to families who adopt, and if they don't already, consider speaking with your HR department. For example, active duty military personnel may be eligible for a $2000 reimbursement.

​10. Ask your Relatives

This isn't possible for everyone but for those who can, consider asking your family for help. Relatives often don't realize how much an adoption costs, but once they do, your parents (or grandparents or loaded uncle) might want to help. It could be by way of a low or interest-free loan, or as a gift. This might be your last option, but it's worth giving a go.

"If you are close to your family, think about asking them for help, if it's within their financial means," said Edward whose one adoption cost $36,000.

Bonus: Consider Foster-to-Adopt

Foster-to-adopt can be a totally free option but it can come with its own set of hurdles. Ultimately you have to decide what the best path to fatherhood is for you.

** The path you choose to create your family is a very personal one. Gays With Kids supports you, whatever your particular path to fatherhood. Check out our "Becoming a Gay Dad" section for the different paths, and please keep us posted on your journey! **

For more, read our article Adoption Glossary Terms Every Adoptive Gay Dad Needs to Know."

And read Agency or Independent Adoption: Which Should Gay Dads Choose?"

Don't forget to read our indispensable guide to adoption:Paths to Gay Fatherhood: The Adoptive Dad."

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