Change the World

Amaya Chasteen-Scheer, Our Kind of American Girl

American Girl dolls have, for decades, been young girls' most fiercely coveted toy, its catalogue pored over and the impeccably curated tiny scenes memorized by heart.


Since Mattel bought the line 15 years ago, its focus has shifted from chronicling the lives of characters in historical settings through each doll's personal book series to modern dolls that look “just like" the girls who own them. The corresponding American Girl Magazine aims to inspire and empower girls from diverse backgrounds by featuring girls making an impact in the world, even at a young age.

Eleven-year-old Amaya Chasteen-Scheer is certainly making an impact. Amaya, a former foster kid just like her three brothers, enthusiastically helps her parents assemble suitcases and backpacks full of necessities and toys for children in the foster care system.

Their impact in the Washington, D.C. area won them a volunteer award from Washington, D.C.'s Child and Family Services. Rob Scheer (see photo above), one of Amaya's two dads, received the award. In his acceptance speech, he told the crowd how his adopted daughter's enthusiasm for the cause drives his family's charity work.

With that statement, he unknowingly catalyzed a series of events that would thrust their organization, Comfort Cases, onto the national stage. After the awards ceremony, a writer for American Girl Magazine approached Rob to ask if she could interview Amaya.

Girls who are interviewed by American Girl Magazine face stiff competition to make it into the magazine. So when the call came that Amaya would be featured in the most popular issue of the year, the whole family celebrated.

The family received advance copies of the issue mid October. “Mind you, we still had not read the story," Rob says. The journalist had taken a walk with Amaya on the family's farm, so no one but she and Amaya knew what they had talked about.

Amaya Chasteen-Scheer

The story, written by the interviewer from 11-year-old Amaya's point of view, detailed her journey from foster care to finding a loving family – and the passion her experience gave her for helping other kids in foster care.

Several professional photos of Amaya with her stylish pink accent braids, plus a photo of the whole family, ran with the piece. Amaya began crying when she saw herself on the pages of the magazine.

Rob asked her if something was wrong. “'These are all just happy tears,'" Rob recalls her saying. “She said, 'I just can't believe it. This is going to help so many kids in foster care, Daddy.'"

But then an email from a friend punctured the family's elation. Had they seen the outcry against the article?

The right-wing activist group One Million Moms, which vows to protect children from “immorality, violence, vulgarity and profanity" in media, had urged a boycott against American Girl and its parent company, Mattel, for publishing Amaya's story.

Then came the phone calls and online comments. (The family keeps their phone number publicly listed in case the kids' birth parents ever get clean and choose to re-establish contact with the family.)

Rob received one particularly vicious phone call: “We're praying for your boys because we know you and that other gay man is raping them every night."

“That was pretty rough," he says.

American Boycott

One Million Moms' call for a boycott had an immense impact – but probably not the one the organization intended.

In the days after One Million Moms expressed their outrage, the hateful calls and comments gave way to calls from media outlets eager to tell the Scheer family's side of the story – and an outpouring of support for Amaya, her family and Comfort Cases.

Local D.C. news stations Fox 5 and NBC Washington, Human Rights Campaign, The Washington Post, AJ+ and most recently, RawStory, picked up the story.

American Girl declined an interview, but provided this statement: “American Girl stands in strong support of all girls everywhere. Our singular goal is to encourage, inspire, and unite girls of all ages and backgrounds, and we love shining a spotlight on their amazing gifts and achievements. Amaya's story about her efforts to help kids in foster care is a perfect example of how one young girl is making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. The article is very much in line with the thousands of others we've shared in American Girl® magazine over the years, and we are proud to have shared Amaya's story with our readers."

They did speak with Rob after the backlash broke out. “American Girl contacted us and said, 'We're sorry because we should have prepared you,'" he says. “'This is going to be the biggest story we have ever had.'"

The entire Chasteen-Scheer family

Under Siege

As a mixed-race family with two dads, this isn't the first time the family's been glanced at sideways. Rob says the kids know not everyone thinks their family is as beautiful as they do, so they've equipped them with what they believe are the best responses: Lead by example. Speak up for what's right. Pray for those who mistreat you.

But this situation felt different to Rob. It was much bigger, and somehow it stung more coming from a group of mothers.

So, instead of their usual “stand tall and speak out" approach, Rob and his husband Reece searched for a way to protect their family from the backlash.

“We said to the kids, 'Listen, we can close our curtains. We can shut our front door. We can turn our phones off. We can sit here as a family and let all of this die down and then go about our lives,'" Rob says.

It was Amaya who protested. “It was our kids who said we can't do that," he says. “And it was my daughter who said, 'We lead by example, Daddy. We have to talk about this.'"

Finding a Way Home

Thirty-nine years ago, Rob entered foster care. He carried his belongings from home to home in a garbage bag. At 17, when he aged out of the system and became homeless, he continued to carry his only possessions in a trash bag.

Rob is now a successful man with a decade-strong relationship with his husband, Reece, but he's never forgotten how worthless he felt during that time.

Five years ago, the couple took in their first two foster-to-adopt kids, Amaya and Makai. They've since adopted two more sons, Greyson and Tristan.

“When my kids came, each one of them had a trash bag. [They] had nothing but torn and tattered clothes." He remembers thinking, “I carried a trash bag and they're still carrying trash bags?"

Rob founded Comfort Cases to change that. The first year, they aimed to put together proper suitcases full of new items that would give foster kids comfort: clothes, pajamas, toiletries and toys. Their goal was 300 cases. They made 800.

And last year, they made 7,000. This year's goal is 11,000, though because of all the media attention, they'll surely far exceed that number.

For Amaya, helping her family pack Comfort Cases is healing. It enables her to give other kids in foster care something she never had before her adoption: the knowledge that someone out there is looking out for them.

“They are important because when you're in foster care, you might feel like you don't even exist," Amaya says of the bags in the American Girl Magazine feature. “It's like you're invisible. I know because that's how I felt. Kids in that situation can be really sad. Our bags make foster kids feel as if they're loved."

And we hope that Amaya, her brothers and her two gay dads know that they're loved too.

To find out more about Comfort Cases and to support their good work, please visit their website.

Show Comments ()

Today is National Coming Out Day, and as we celebrate, we're sharing six coming out stories from dads in our community. Their personal stories are heartwarming, relatable, and empowering. Happy Coming Out Day, and remember, live your truth!

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

10 Inspiring Coming Out Stories From Gay Dads

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our recent stories about gay men with kids coming out to live their most authentic lives.

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our best articles of gay dads coming out to live their authentic lives.

#1. Former NFL Player Jeff Rohrer, and Father of Two, Comes Out as Gay and Marries Longterm Partner


Jeff Rohrer, a father of two teenage boys via a previous relationship with a woman, is the first NFL player to marry another man. Read the article here.

#2. Coming Out to His Wife Was Painful, Says This Salt Lake-Based Dad of Four. But it Started Him on a Path of Authenticity

After Kyle came out to his wife, with whom he has four children, "she listened, she mourned and she loved," he said. Read the article here.

#3. Gay Dads Share Their Coming Out Stories for National Coming Out Day

We asked several gay dads to share their coming out stories in honor of National Coming Out Day, whose stories are heartwarming, instructive, and everything in between. Read the article here.

#4. Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News. Read the article here.

#5. One Gay Dad's Path Towards Realizing Being Gay and Christian are Not Mutually Exclusive

Gay dads Matt and David Clark-Sally talk about coming out, parenting as gay men, and reconciling faith and sexuality. Read the article here.

#6. Republican Utah Lawmaker, and Dad of Two, Comes Out as Gay in Moving Video

Nathan Ivie has many important identities he's proud of: Mormon, Republican, Utahn, father of two... and gay. Read the article here.

#7. How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown." Read the article here.

#8. Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. Read the article here.

#9. The Best Part of Coming Out, Says This Gay Dad, Is Being an Out and Proud Role Model for His Daughter

"I couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day," said Nate Wormington of his decision to come out. Read the article here.

#10. These Gay Dads Via Previous Marriages Have Adopted a Motto Since Coming Out and Finding Each Other: "United We Stand"

Vincent and Richard both had children in previous marriages with women; together, with their ex-wives, they are helping raise seven beautiful kids. Read the article here.

Change the World

Single Gay Man Adopts Girl Passed Over by 20 Previous Families

Luca Trapanese, a gay dad from Naples, Italy, adopted a baby with Down syndrome who had been rejected twenty times previously

Luca Trapanese, a single 41-year-old gay man from Naples, Italy, had always wanted to become a dad. But in Italy, it was only legal for married heterosexual couples to adopt until 2017. Even then, he was told that he'd only be able to adopt a "hard to place" child, with mental or physical challenges.

"They told me that they would only give me sick children, with severe disabilities, or with behavioral problems," he told the BBC in an interview. "I was absolutely ok with that."

And that's how Alba, a little girl with Down syndrome, came into his life. Abandoned at birth, she had been passed over by 20 separate families before Luca was approached about providing her a home. Luca, who has worked and volunteered with people with disabilities from a young age, readily agreed.

"I'm proud to be her father," Luca said. "Alba was never a second option because she had a disability. I wanted her to be my daughter."

Listen to the entire interview here.

Surrogacy for Gay Men

A Dream Becomes Reality, After a Men Having Babies Conference

New Yorkers David and Brian said their dreams of fatherhood crystalized only after receiving a "ton of information" at a Men Having Babies conference.

New Yorkers David F.M. Vaughn 39, and Brian Becker, 37, are new dads. Over the past three months, the two most important things they've learned as fathers is "patience, and how to swaddle LIKE A CHAMP!" David and Brian chose surrogacy as their path to fatherhood, but making that decision was one of the more difficult parts of their journey. Brian's siblings are adopted, and while they still want to make adoption part of their family journey, certain opportunities arose that made their surrogacy decision easier. Brian's sister enthusiastically offered to be their gestational surrogate, and they discovered more about the process with the help of Men Having Babies (MHB).

But let's jump back to the beginning of their story.

Keep reading... Show less
Foster/Foster-Adopt

Your Foster Adopt Questions Answered by a Foster Adopt Dad

We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about being a foster dad — and an experienced foster dad responded.

Dad Joseph Bostick (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a foster and adoptive dad with our Instagram community via a question and answer session - did you feel nervous at the beginning? How did you start the process? Did you always know that you wanted to foster older kids?

Read Joseph's responses below.

Keep reading... Show less

Gay Surrogacy in the U.S. for International Dads

Kristin Marsoli of Circle Surrogacy breaks down the process of surrogacy for gay men outside of the United States

Written by Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation, who has been helping international gay men become dads for over two decades.

Becoming a gay dad through a surrogacy agency in the U.S. – when you live outside of the United States – can feel overwhelming. You may have questions such as: Why should I come all the way to the US for surrogacy? What do I need to know as an international intended parent? How do I get my baby home?

We spoke with Circle Surrogacy & Egg Donation who has been working with international gay parents for over two decades. Circle Surrogacy was founded by a gay dad and lawyer, and is the most successful surrogacy agency with a full legal team on staff who are experts working with international parents.

Keep reading... Show less
Coming Out

My Gay Shame Is Officially Cancelled

After years of feeling ashamed of being gay, David Blacker has finally overcome it. And his son had a lot to do with it.

Scrolling through my social media feeds, reading all the posts about National Coming Out Day reminds me just how valuable it is for us to share our stories and be as open, vulnerable and authentic as possible. Warning: this article is about to get real AF, so now might be a good time to switch back to the Face-Aging app that gives Russia all your personal data.

Oh good, you stayed. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse