Gay Dad Life

Choices, Choices

This is the fourth article in Anthony Romeo's series about his adoption journey. Read the first article in the series.

I realize now that the thing I appreciate most about my marriage is the ability for one of us to stay on the ground while the other one is way up in the air, flying high on nerves and what-ifs. Thank god for my husband Dominic (left in photo above), because on the 30-minute drive to A Loving Choice adoption agency last night, there were times when I thought I was going to throw up. I’ve traveled the country speaking to young people about the coming-out process, I’ve taken a lawsuit for GLBT equality to the State Supreme Court; hell, I’ve gotten married. And none of that made me more nervous than sitting in the car for ten minutes outside the agency building before the 7 o'clock interest session last night.

Remember how I told you you’d be coming along for the ride, warts and all? Well, lucky for you, I didn’t throw up on myself, so, consider that bullet dodged for now.

We walked into A Loving Choice at 6:55 p.m., into a building which is essentially just a house. It felt odd at first, but by the end of the meeting, I understood exactly why the space is what it is. This was a general interest meeting; we were just there for information, and to hear from someone within the agency about the processes and their specific philosophies and policies. We joined four other couples, each on their own road to parenthood. They were all heterosexual, which made me feel comfortable, because like teenagers at a dance, we all had our own awkward stories, fears, and tensions. We never shared names with one another, but for two and a half hours last night, we were all on the same path, ten birds of a very common feather, flying side by side. Different origins, same destination.

A Loving Choice Adoption Associates, Shrewsbury, New Jersey












The meeting was led by the supervisor of casework services, Christine. She's an adoptive mother herself, a co-founder of A Loving Choice 11 years ago, and we were immediately comfortable with her. I guess if you’ve worked with people in intense situations for as long as Christine has, you get to dispense with any façade and just focus on connecting immediately. She nailed it. She opened by suggesting we all go to multiple agencies for information meetings, because being comfortable with the agency we select is of utmost importance. Like Santa telling a customer to shop somewhere other than Macy’s, I really appreciated the candor up front. Dom and I are no-BS people and so was Christine. We’ll go to meetings with other agencies, absolutely. But I’m kind of in love with Christine and her personality, so to have someone with whom we felt immediately comfortable, in a situation as intensely personal and with the propensity for so much heartache, doesn’t go unnoticed. I know I would trust her with our family. And when weighing options on whom to select to represent our ability to parent a child, and to fight for us, trust feels like it’s crucial.

Of course we were curious about the money, absolutely. But to get to the answers on money, it’s important that we understood exactly what options would be in front of us.

The “passport to adoption,” as Christine called it, is in completing our home study. It is absolutely necessary, as is the first step. This process takes about six weeks to complete, and is as invasive and difficult as we’d envisioned it. We can't say we were surprised. A caseworker will give us a huge questionnaire, ask us to write about ourselves, and provide lots of documents. We’ll submit to a Criminal History Record Information fingerprint background check. We’ll go through a Child Abuse Record Information background check. We’ll have meetings in our home, we’ll be interviewed together, we’ll be interviewed separately. And all of this is valid for one year. If we do not adopt within a year, we’ll need to update our home study. If you’re interested in keeping a tally at home, a home study is $950.

Once the home study process is completed, we can choose to "go into profile" with A Loving Choice. There is a $250 fee for a Profile Consultation, where we’re guided through the process of establishing our profile with the agency. After that, we pay $750 to file our profile with the agency, and an additional $250 if we’d like it listed on their website. When these steps are concluded, we’ll be off to the races. A Loving Choice will start showing our profiles to birth mothers who meet the criteria we select in our home study. If we are only interested in a Caucasian, healthy baby whose birth parents are both college-educated and have never had a glass of wine, the wait will be, shall we say, extensive. We learned that the more open we are to different situations, the shorter our wait will be, generally. Now, there are two options for how we can move forward.

If a birth mother is shown our profile by A Loving Choice, and they select us, it will be directly because of the work of the agency. The fee for an adoption via Profile Selection is $15,000, with an additional $2,500 provided for birth mother expenses. This is the highest that the birth mother expenses can get, any additional is covered by the agency. If the birth mother changes her mind about adoption, we would be refunded that money.

If, in the course of our own advertising and publicizing our adoption profile, a birth mother reaches out to us directly and indicates her interest in selecting us, we would pay $6,000 to the agency, for what’s called an Identified Adoption. However, we would be directly responsible for any and all birth mother expenses, with no ceiling on how high that can climb, and with no protection to recover that money if the birth mother changes her mind at the end of this process and chooses to parent that child herself.

On either of these roads, a baby will ultimately be born that is placed with us. There are then four visits from the adoption agency, billed at $200 each, for Post Placement Reports. And then court reports.

What’s that line in Les Misérables? Oh yes, it’s, “How it all increases, all them bits and pieces. Jesus! It’s amazing how it grows!” Yes, this.

But at last, we have an accurate picture of what a full marathon with an adoption agency will cost us. From the $2,200 home study process to the more expensive Profile Selection adoption (including birth mother expenses) at $17,500, we’re looking at a $20,000 run. It’s like that moment when you’ve been staring at one of those Magic Eye pictures, and you can finally see a dolphin coming out of the background. Yes, you can see the dolphin, but damn it if you don’t feel a little nauseous.

Knowing the money side of things now, the road ahead appears more emerald-tinted than yellow-bricked. But there’s a discernible road there. It all starts with our home study. When we file our home study paperwork, we include a check for that process, and then the agency could present us with possible matches at any point. The expected wait, we were told, is between 9 and 24 months. I get irritated when Cablevision tells me they’ll be at my house between 9 and 2, so I’m going to learn about this thing my husband tells me is called patience. An educating process, indeed. When a baby is placed with us, all of the other money is due. There are no payment plans, no financing. It’s all or it’s nothing.

I’m so grateful to A Loving Choice for making last night as comfortable and educational as it was. I really do feel that this could be the right place for us, for our family to take root.

We’ve had so many family and friends reach out since last night, offering words of encouragement, asking how things went, friends with crying babies and jobs and lives of their own. Thank you for asking us how it went, we love you all very much.

And for those of you whom we don’t know, who are cheering us on as we walk hand in hand together towards a tinier set of hands, I told you I’d keep you in this loop. Last night was easy, hard, exhilarating, terrifying, and emotional. And now last night is over, and it’s on to the next thing. And after that, the next thing, and the next and the next. Stay with us?

Birds of a feather, you know? Keep flapping with us, we’ll find our way together.

Read the next article in Anthony Romeo's series about his adoption journey.

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Change the World

'Homosexuality is Wrong' Utah Teacher Tells Boy Who Gave Thanks for His Two Adoptive Dads

The substitute teacher went on to say two men living together is "sinful." She was fired shortly after.

To anyone with a heart, the moment should have done nothing more than bring a tear to the eye. Last week, just before the Thanksgiving break, a substitute teacher in a fifth grade class in Cedar Hills, Utah — just south of Salt Lake City — asked her students to name something they were thankful for this holiday season.

"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

Louis also revealed that the moment may not have come to light were it not for three of his son's classmates, who told the principal about the teacher's bigoted comments. His son, Daniel, didn't want to report the incident for fear of getting the teacher into trouble.

Louis expressed thanks that the staffing company responded as quickly as it did following the incident — and also stressed that his neighbors and community have rallied behind he and his family in the days afterward, offering support. He wanted to dispel stereotypes that Utah, because of its social conservatism and religiosity, was somehow inherently prejudiced.

"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

All that aside, let's also get back to what should have been nothing more than a heartwarming moment — Daniel, a fifth grade boy, giving thanks to finally being legally adopted into a loving family.


Amazon's New "Modern Love" Series Includes Episode on Open Adoption

The episode is loosely based on the New York Times "Modern Love" essay written by sex columnist and activist Dan Savage.

In 2005, Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, contributed one of the most talked about essays for the Modern Love column in The New York Times. Better known for his acerbic wit and cutting political commentary, Savage exposed a more vulnerable side in this piece, sharing the highs, lows and everything in between that comes from the experience of pursuing an open adoption.

His son DJ's birth mother was experiencing what Savage called a "slo-mo suicide": homeless by choice, in and out of prison, and surrounded by drugs. Though Savage has chosen an open adoption so that DJ's birth mother would be a presence in his son's life, she often disappeared for months and sometimes years at a time without contacting the family, leaving their young son with lots of questions and no satisfying answers.

The piece ends on a heartbreaking note, with Savage simply seeking some sort of resolution. "I'm starting to get anxious for this slo-mo suicide to end, whatever that end looks like," he wrote. "I'd prefer that it end with DJ's mother off the streets in an apartment somewhere, pulling her life together. But as she gets older that resolution is getting harder to picture."

At the time, many interpreted Savage's story as a cautionary tale for those considering open adoptions. But in 2016, on the Modern Love Podcast, he asserted that was not his intention: "DJ's mom is alive and well," Savage said. "She's on her feet. She's housed. We talk on the phone occasionally. She and DJ speak on Mother's Day and on DJ's birthday." He added that he "would hate to have anyone listen to that essay or to read it — which was written at a moment of such kind of confusion and despair — and conclude that they shouldn't do the kind of adoption that we did," Savage said. "I think that open adoption is really in the best interest of the child, even if … it presents more challenges for the parents. So I encourage everyone who's thinking about adoption to seriously consider open adoption and not to be dissuaded by my essay."

Now, Savage's piece is getting the small screen treatment as one of 9 episodes included in Amazon Prime's adaption of the column. The episode inspired by Savage's essay, "Hers Was a World of One," contains some departures from Savage's original story — Savage's character, played by Fleabag's Andrew Scott, adopts a daughter rather than a son, for example, and the episode concludes closer to the upbeat note struck in the Podcast version of hist story than in the column.

Either way, we welcome any and all attention to the complexities of open adoption. Check out the episode (which also randomly includes Ed Sheeran in a couple scenes) and tell us what you think!


Adopting Dogs Improves Gay Couples' Relationships, Says Adorable Study

In what may be a "pre-curser to parenthood," 56% of gay and bi couples reported spending more time with their partners after adopting a dog.

As part of what may be the most adorable study you never knew you needed, pet-sitting website found that gay and bi couples who adopt dogs reportedly boast stronger relationships as a result — 56% of gay and bi couples said they spent more time with their partners after adopting a dog. More than half of participants also said that owning a dog can help prepare couples for children.

Interestingly, gay and bi couples were also more likely to prepare for potential difficulties in their arrangements — 21% of gay and bi couples reported setting up a "pet-nup" agreement to determine custody of their new pup in case their relationship didn't last. Only 12% of straight couples, in contrast, did the same.

"You can outline the practicalities of what would happen in the event you split from your partner whether you have joint or sole custody," dog behaviorist Louise Glazebrook told Australia's QN News. "It's a real tragedy to see breakups results in dogs needing to be re-homed.

There was, however, one clear downside to pet ownership mentioned in the study — 17% of respondents said they have less sex now that they're sharing a bed with their pup.

What to Buy

Shop with a Purpose with Our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Want to find amazing gift ideas while *also* supporting LGBTQ-owned and allied businesses? Look no further than our 2019 holiday gift guide!

'Tis the season to show loved ones you care. And what better way to show you care, by also supported our LGBTQ+ community and allies whilst doing it! Shop (LGBTQ+) smart with these great suggestions below.

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Newly Out Gay Dad Feels 'Demoted' After Divorce

Cameron Call showed up to his first family Thanksgiving since coming out and getting a divorce — and struggles to find himself "stuck with the singles."

Cameron Call, who came out in summer 2019, has generously agreed to chronicle his coming out journey for Gays With Kids over the next several months — the highs, lows and everything in between. Read his first article here.

Denial is an interesting thing. It's easy to think you're potentially above it, avoiding it, assume it doesn't apply to you because you'd NEVER do that, or maybe you're just simply avoiding it altogether. After finally coming out, I liked to think that I was done denying anything from now on. But unfortunately that's not the case.

And this fact became very clear to me over Thanksgiving.

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New Report Details the 'Price of Parenthood' for LGBTQ People

A new report by the Family Equality Council takes a deep dive into the current state of cost for becoming a parent as an LGBTQ person

Parenthood is expensive. But parenthood while queer is still prohibitively costly for so many segments of the LGBTQ community interested in pursuing a family, according to a new repot by the Family Equality Council, titled, "Building LGBTQ+ Families: The Price of Parenthood."

Among the more interesting findings was this one: the cost of family planning is relatively similar for all LGBTQ people, regardless of income level. This shows "that the desire to have children exists regardless of financial security," the report's authors conclude.

Research for the report was conducted through an online survey of 500 LGBTQ adults over the age of 18, and was conducted between July 11-18, 2018. For comparison, the survey also included 1,004 adults who did not identify as LGBTQ.

Other interesting findings of the report include:

  • 29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have volunteered to participate in online surveys and polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, and error associated with question-wording and response options.29% of all LGBTQ+ respondents reported an annual household income under $25,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents.
  • 33% of black LGBTQ+ respondents, 32% of female-identified LGBTQ+ respondents, and 31% of trans/gender non-conforming LGBTQ+ respondents reported annual household incomes below $25,000.
  • Regardless of annual household income, 45-53% of LGBTQ+ millennials are planning to become parents for the first time or add another child to their family. Those making less than $25,000 a year are considering becoming parents at very similar rates as those making over $100,000.
  • Data from the Family Building Survey reveals that LGBTQ+ households making over $100,000 annually are considering the full range of paths to parenthood, from surrogacy and private adoption to foster care and IVF. The most popular options under consideration in this income bracket are private adoption (74% are considering), foster care (42%), and IVF or reciprocal IVF (21%). At the other end of the economic spectrum, for LGBTQ+ individuals in households making less than $25,000 annually, the most commonly considered paths to parenthood are intercourse (35% are considering), foster care (30%), and adoption (23%).

What to Buy

A Gift Guide for LGBTQ Inclusive Children's Books

Need some ideas for good LGBTQ-inclusive children's books? Look no further than our gift guide!

Every year we see more books released that feature our families, and we're here for it! We're especially excited for the day when diverse and LGBTQ+ inclusive books are less of "the odd one out" and rather considered part of every kids' everyday literacy.

To help us reach that day, we need to keep supporting our community and allies who write these stories. So here's a list of some of the great books that need to be in your library, and gifts to the other kids in your lives.

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