Bobby and Fred: Adopting Ten Kids from Foster Care
Many stories of gay men creating their families follow a predictable path: two men fall in love, move in together and start a family. This is not one of those stories.
Bobby became a first-time dad when he was just 19 years old; he was married to a woman at the time. When Fred's firstborn arrived, he was 24 and married to a woman as well.
Fred (left) and Bobby, their first summer together June 1997
Bobby would eventually have four children, two of whom were technically stepchildren; Fred would have two children of his own. As time went on, they each discovered they were gay and ended their marriages, but both became the primary caregivers of their kids. As single gay dads they met on December 28, 1996. At the time, Bobby and two of his children were living in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Fred was living with his two kids in nearby Muskogee, also in Oklahoma.
When Bobby and Fred met, the four children were all close in age. Only a month later, Bobby's family moved into Fred's home, and just like that, two families merged into one.
Fred and Bobby's older kids from their first relationships
Years later, the summer after their youngest two moved out, one of Bobby's stepdaughters asked the men if they could help care for her 3-year-old son, Shayne, for a couple of months. He never left, and in fact he recently turned 18 years old.
Over the years his stepdaughter had four more children, all of whom would eventually move in with their step-grandfathers, too. Haeli, now 16, was 3 when she moved in; Kamirah, now 13, was 4; Bobby II, now 10, was a newborn; as was Patti, now 8. Today the older kids refer to the men as Grandpa and Uncle Fred, but the two youngest call them both Daddy.
Bobby and Fred's wedding: August 5, 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico
The family celebrating on Bobby and Fred's wedding day
The men gave these kids a stable, loving home. In 2011 they finalized the adoption of all five of these kids.
The family was still not done expanding. One of Bobby's sons had three children living in foster care. (One of these children is technically Bobby's granddaughter.) For years there was legal wrangling between the men and the state of Texas, where the birth mother was living. The kids stayed with Bobby and Fred for about a year, then were reunited with their mom for a while until Child Protective Services stepped in again. When the birth mother's rights were terminated, Ashton, now 10, Katelyn, now 7, and Trenton, now 3, became a permanent part of the family in 2014. They were officially adopted in January of 2016.
The final two children whom Bobby and Fred took in are still babies. The men welcomed Emma Rose and Alexander Jackson, Bobby's biological grandchildren, into their home in August 2015 following their birth. Their adoption was finalized November 18, 2016 -- today!
2015: Bobby holding Emma Rose and Alexander Jackson
When asked if his children have any other children, Bobby answered with what seemed to be a heartfelt “God, I hope not!"
How about Fred's biological children? Fred's daughter, a lesbian, is living with her partner and children. His son is gay, too.
Bobby and Fred feel that all their kids can be whoever they want to be without fear of judgment.
Both men have been parenting little ones for decades now. To illustrate: the age difference between their oldest and their youngest kids is a whopping 31. Unsurprisingly, they do feel they're getting older. (“You better take your vitamins and you better take care of yourself!" says Bobby.) But there are quite a few things related to growing older that work to their advantage: They're more stable as a couple and they are financially a lot better off now than they were in the nineties. And their older kids, teenagers now, really help out a lot. In Bobby's words, “Everybody takes care of the ones younger than themselves."
How do the men make this enormous household work? First, they have a big house, with eight bedrooms. And they do a lot of housework on the weekends. But the real reason for their success is how they managed to make everyone feel part of the family: They treat all children the same, whether they are biologically related or not; there is no difference between any of them.
The family's adoption of Emma Rose and Alexander Jackson, November 18, 2016
Fred is especially clear on this point: “These children didn't have anything until you adopted them and all they have is you and us. There is no difference to me."
And as if to drive their point home: they made sure all their kids have the same last name.
This brings the guys to their last point: There are so, so many kids out there that need loving, caring homes. Says Fred, “We have this thing called Wednesday's Child. Some of those kids have been in foster care their whole life. You probably have something similar on the news when they show kids that are needing to be adopted. Once a week. It's all I can do not to pick up the phone. But I think we've got enough already." Bobby adds, “It's heartbreaking to see them. If someone is thinking about being a parent, please look into the foster-care system of your state."