Gay Adoption

Considering an Independent Adoption? What Gay Dads Can Expect

The 7 steps for gay men pursuing an independent adoption.

So you've decided to adopt. You've weighed the differences between an agency adoption and an independent (or private) adoption, and you've decided on the latter. So what can gay men who have chosen to pursue an independent adoption expect from the process?

Step 1: Find an LGBTQ-Competent Adoption Lawyer

Your first step in an independent adoption will be to find an adoption lawyer. These days, with the breadth of options available to prospective gay dads, it's no longer acceptable to be merely "LGBTQ-friendly." You should search for and hire a lawyer who is LGBTQ-competent, and has a proven track record working with LGBTQ families. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong way to go about locating the right lawyer for you. Start conducting some research online, and ask any friends and family who have previously pursued an independent adoption about their experiences. Some national organizations, like the National LGBT Bar Association and Lambda Legal, may be able to offer recommendations as well. You should also reach out to your local LGBTQ community center or advocacy organization and ask for recommendations.

Regardless of where your recommendations come from, be sure to ask any potential lawyer you hire to share his or her history working with LGBTQ parents: how many of their previous clients have been LGBTQ families? Do LGBTQ families have longer wait times, on average, than their heterosexual clients? You may also want to ask to speak with your lawyer's previous LGBTQ clients to gain further insights into the experience.

Read: 5 Questions Gay Men Should Ask Adoption Agencies or Attorneys

State laws vary widely with respect to independent adoptions, so this step will be particularly important. Five states — Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, and North Carolina — don't allow independent adoptions at all, and require all adoptive parents to work with a state-certified agency.

Step 2: Research State and Agency Laws & Regulations

Regardless of the path your choose, as a gay man or couple, it will be important for you to research the adoption laws governing your state as they vary. If you are adopting across state lines, moreover, you will need to understand the laws in both states. Though it is now legal for LGBTQ couples and individuals to petition to adopt in every state in the country, for instance, restrictions can still apply and the process can sometimes be overly complicated, particularly for single people or non-married couples. Your lawyer should be prepared to answer any questions you may have about state laws, and help navigate any potential issues.

Fortunately, since you are foregoing the services of an agency, you will not need to worry about any additional regulations beyond those required by state law. Many adoption agencies have standards beyond those required by state law. Some have age requirements, for instance, while others will refuse service to LGBTQ people or single men. Those pursuing an independent adoption, however, will not be subject to any agency regulations.

Step 3: Consider Hiring an Adoption Facilitator

If you pursue an agency adoption, a casework or social worker will be assigned to help guide you through the process. If you pursue an independent adoption, however, you will not have this built in support system. An adoption facilitator, where legally available, can help serve a similar function by helping match birth mothers with prospective adoptive parents. Facilitators are not regulated or licensed by any state agency, so if you choose to use one, be sure to get recommendations, and pick a reputable organization with a history of placing children with LGBTQ families.

Step 4: Complete the Home Study

The home study is required of every adoptive parent, regardless of whether you pursue an independent or agency adoption. In an independent adoption, you will be required to find and hire your own home study provider to conduct your home study. Your adoption lawyer should have recommendations on home study professionals.

The home study often causes prospective parents — gay or otherwise — considerable anxiety, but with some preparation, you can complete the process quickly and without difficulty. During the home study, you will be required to supply a series of documents, such as your driver's license, financial information and birth certificate. You will also have to pass several clearances, including a criminal background check, and a check into any previous child abuse and neglect. Your home study provider will also be required to help assess your fitness as a parent, and ensure your home is safe for a child.

In conducting home studies, social workers take many factors into consideration such as the age, preferences, and needs of the child. The particular requirements and average length of the home study will vary by state, so check with your agency or lawyer. In most states, after the home study is complete, you are considered a "waiting family," which means you have successfully completed your study and are approved to adopt.

Step 5: Start the Matching Process

Once you have completed your home study, it's time to begin the matching process. In an independent adoption, the birth mother, rather than an agency, will select the adoptive parents based on any number of factors, including your particular set of values, interests, personality, family history and stories, and pictures.

Unlike in an agency adoption, however, the job of finding a birth family will fall to you or an adoption intermediary, such as a facilitator. To help locate birth families, prospective parents can consider any number of tactics, such as buying advertisements in newspapers, setting up pages on social media, or creating personal websites. Once again, be sure to check with your adoption lawyer prior to starting the matching process; many states regulate or outright prohibit certain kinds of advertising in the adoption process.

Step 6: Get to Know the Birth Family

Many adoptive parents choose to pursue an independent adoption for the higher level of involvement that can exist between adoptive and birth families. Without an agency serving as intermediary, you and your birth mother will be allowed to customize the process to both of your liking.

Still, the method of communication between you and the birth mother might vary widely. You and/or the birth family may wish to keep communication to a minimum, and will perhaps communicate only infrequently. Other situations may involve more extensive communication with both the birth mother and her family. It will be up to you and the birth family to determine the type and amount of communication that works best for you.

Step 7: Finalize Your Adoption

After being officially matched with your birth mother, the next step is to finalize your adoption after the birth of the baby. In some instances, the finalization will occur at the hospital, as soon as the baby is born. In others, however, it can take weeks or even months before the finalization is complete.

Before an adoption can be finalized, some states require a "revocation" period during which the birth parents have the right to terminate the adoption agreement. This period can last anywhere from several hours to months after the birth of a child. After this waiting period, you will enter the "post-placement" phase of your adoption. During these months, your adoption agency will likely remain the legal guardian of the child while your social worker continues to visit your home to check in on you and your new family.

After the post-placement phase, which can last up to a year, the finalization of the adoption will occur in court. Though the surroundings can seem intimidating — in a courtroom, in front of a judge — finalization hearings are mostly a legal formality. It simply provides the judge an opportunity to verify that the birth parents have voluntarily terminated their parental rights and that you've complied with all state adoption laws.

Celebrate!

Need some ideas on how to celebrate the big day? Stay tuned to Gays With Kids for stories and pictures of gay dads completing their adoptions.

The information included above is educational, and is not meant to substitute for legal advice. Not adopting independently? Check out the commons steps gay men can expect when adopting a newborn through an agency as well!

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Photo credit: Dale Stine

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Three Eagles, Two Male one Female, Form Nontraditional Family

Three bald eagles in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together

According to the Advocate, three bald eagles — two male and one female — are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together.

"Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that's true for wildlife too!" wrote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on Facebook. "Meet Valor I, Valor II and Starr, a breeding trio of bald eagles that live along the Mississippi River in Illinois. For several years, fans from all over the world have been watching this nontraditional family through a webcam as the eagles deal with the trials and tribulations of parenting."

The thruple came to be in unique way. "The nest was originally inhabited by Valor I and another female eagle named Hope," wrote the Advocate. "Initially, Valor I had poor parenting skills — he didn't hunt or guard the nest while Hope was away. Valor II entered the nest in 2013 to pick up the slack — and taught Valor I some parenting skills in the process. Hope left the nest in March 2017 after she was injured by other birds. But instead of going off to find new mates, the male eagles decided to stick together until Starr joined their nest in September 2017."

Though rare, this isn't the first time that a trio of eagles have come to share nests in this way. According to USA Today, other trruples were have been spotted in Alaska in 1977, in Minnesota in 1983 and in California in 1992.

Check out this family below!


Trio Eagle Cam Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge Live Stream www.youtube.com

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Here we are now, pregnant again with our son which we revealed Live on Facebook! We're due in August, we're now writing several blogs, social media influencers and launching a new business focusing on our main mission to support others and being advocates for UK surrogacy. It's no wonder we're shattered!

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These Guys Are Proof: Bisexual Dads Exist!

Far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "B" category than any other. Here are three of their inspiring stories.

A couple months ago, Gays With Kids received the following message via one of our social media channels:

"Hey guys, love what you do. But where are your stories about bi men who are dads? Do they not exist? I get the sense from your page that most queer dads identify as gay. I identify as bi (or pansexual) and want to become a dad one day, but just never see my story represented. Are they just not out there?"We can say with resounding certainly that YES bisexual dads absolutely exist. In fact, of all the letters in our acronym, far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "b" category than any other.

But our reader is certainly right in one respect--we don't hear the stories of bisexual/pansexual dads told nearly often enough. While we occasionally find stories to tell about bi dads, like this great one from earlier this year from a dad who just came out, we otherwise aren't often finding stories of bi dads nearly as easy as we do gay dads. We're sure this is due to any number of reasons--societal pressure to stay closeted from both the straight and LGBTQ communities along with erasure of bisexuality both come to mind.

But it's also because we haven't done the best job reaching out specifically to the bi dad community! We hope to start changing that, starting by bringing you the stories of three bid dads in our community.

(Are you a bi dad? Click here so we can help tell your story and increase exposure for the bi dad community, or drop us a line at dads@gayswithkids.com!)

James Shoemaker, bisexual dad of three, in Alton Illinois

James Shoemaker, who is 65-years-old and lives in Alton, Illinois, says he's known he was bisexual since the age of five. Still he lived what he called a "happily socially heterosexual" life throughout his adolescence, until he had his first same-sex experience in college at the age of 18-years-old.

In his 20s, he began his first same-sex relationship with a man, which lasted about five years. But soon the conversation turned towards children. James wanted his own biological children, something that would have been difficult, particularly at the time, to achieve. He and his boyfriends split, and soon after James met the woman who would become his wife. Since he had previously been in a relationship with a man, and his friends and family were aware of his sexuality, there was no hiding his bisexuality from his wife. There was no hiding my bisexuality from her

"We were both in our 30's, and both wanted kids," James said. "Wo were both kind of desperate to find a partner and she expressed that."

He and his wife proceeded to have three daughters together and lived what he called a fairly "conventional" life. "There was so much societal support [for raising a family] within conventional marriage," he said. "This was new to me, since I came out at age 17, and was used to being "different".

Being in a relationship with a woman, James said, alienated him from much of the LGBTQ activism that began to take hold in the 1980s and 1990s. "I felt I could not act as a representative for gay rights while married to a woman and raising kids with her," he said.

When his youngest daughter turned 18, he and his wife split and, and James began, once again, to date other men. Eventually, he met Paul Mutphy, who he has been dating for four years. Since reentering the world dating another man, he's had to confront, at times, people's misconceptions about his bisexuality. "It's not just gay guys looking for more social acceptance," James said, noting that "Bi rights" has not really caught the public's attention in the same way as "gay rights".

Maxwell Hosford, bi trans dad of one, in Yakima Washington


Maxwell Hosford, who lives in Yakima, Washington, came out as bisexual when he was 13-years-old. "I was still questioning myself," he said "and the term bisexual seemed to fit me."

A year later, when he was 14, Maxwell also came out as trans. "I had heard about Chaz Bono on the radio one morning before school and it got me thinking," he said. "I realized that I wasn't the only one who felt that way and that there was a term for how I've felt."

Though people often conflate sexual orientation and gender identity, Maxwell stressed that he sees his identity as trans and bisexual as perfectly natural. "I see them interacting in a way of fluidity," he said. "Not straight but not gay. Just a feeling of love."

Maxwell described his path to parenthood as a bit of an accident. "I was on testosterone for two years but had a four-week break because i was switching doctors," he said. During that break, Maxwell ended up getting pregnant, and wasn't aware of the pregnancy for several months after. "I just thought my body was just being weird from starting T again," he said. Once he took the test and saw the two pink lines, though he knew his life was about to change forever. He went to Planned Parenthood the very next day.

Being pregnant while trans, Maxwell said, was an incredible experience. "I was comfortable enough with my gender identity that I didn't have very much dysphoria," he said, though he noted he did face a lot of misgendering from strangers. "But I understood that because I did have a big ole pregnant belly," he said. He was grateful for his medical team who all referred to him according to the correct pronouns.

Soon after, his son Harrison was born. As soon as he held him in his arms, Maxwell said the entire process was worth it. "All the misgendering, all the questions and people misunderstanding doesn't matter once you have that baby in your arms nothing matters but that little bundle of joy."

Three years ago, Maxwell met his current fiancé, Chase Heiserman, via a gay dating app, and the three now live together as a family. He says he couldn't be happier, but he does face some difficulty as a bi trans man within his broader community. "In some peoples eyes my fiancé and I are a straight couple because I'm trans and he's cisgender," he said. Some of the difficulty has even stemmed from other trans men. "I've had some bad comments from other transmen regarding my pregnancy and how it doesn't make me trans," he said, noting he continues to fight the perception that he is not "trans enough" because he chose to carry his own baby.

Through it all, though, Maxwell says becoming a father has been the biggest blessing in his life. "Being able to carry my baby and bond through those nine months was amazing," he said. "I'm breastfeeding, which is hard as I'm trans, and so I'm self conscious of my large breasts now but it's such a bonding experience that it doesn't matter when I see the look of love and the comfort he gets from it."

For other gay, bi and trans men considering fatherhood, Maxwell has this simple piece of advice: "Go for it."

Michael MacDonald, bi dad of two, in Monterery California 

Michael MacDonald, who is 28-years-old and living in Monterey California, says he came out as bisexual over two years ago. He has two daughters, who are four and two-and-a-half years old, that were born while he was married to his ex-wife. "My children are amazing," he said. "They have been so incredibly strong and brave having mom in one house and dad in another."

Both children were fairly young when Michael and his ex separated, so "they didn't really break a deeply ingrained idea of what a family unit is like. They have always just sort of known that mom and dad don't live together."

Co-parenting isn't always easy, Michael said, noting it's "one of the hardest things in the world." He and his ex overcome any potential difficulty, though, by always putting the children first. "As long as they are happy, healthy and loved, that is all that matters," he said. "I'm so fortunate to have such an incredible/pain in the butt partner to help me raise these amazing little girls."

Though the separation was hard on all of them, Michael said it's also been an amazing experience watching his children's resiliency. "I am so proud of the beautiful little people they are," he said. "Their adaptability, courage and love is something really spectacular."

Since the separation, Michael hasn't been in a serious relationship, but he has dated both men and women, something he says has been "absolutely challenging. Not only does he need to overcome all the typical challenges of a newly divorced parent ("Do they like kids? Would they be a good stepparent?") but also the added stresses of being bisexual. "It can sometimes just be a bit too much for some women to handle," he said.

He has been intentional about making sure his children have known, from a young age, that "daddy likes girls and boys," he said. "They have grown up seeing me interact with people I've dated in a romantic way, like hand holding, abd expressing affection, so I think as they get older it's not something that will ever really seem foreign or different to them to see me with a man or woman," he said.

In his dates with other men, Michael says most guys tend to be surprised to learn that he has biological children. "But once I explain that I am bisexual, it's usually much more easily understood," he said. He is more irritated, though, when people question or outright refuse to recognize his bisexuality. "While I understand and have witnessed many guys who use bisexuality as a "stepping stone" of sorts when coming out," he said, it does not mean that "bisexuality is not real or valid."

As a bisexual dad, he also says he can feel isolated at times within the broader parenting community. "It can be a little intimidating feeling like you don't really belong to one side or another," he said. "There's this huge network of gay parents, and, of course straight parents. Being sort of in the middle can sometimes create a feeling of isolation"

The biggest misconception about bisexual dads who have split with their wives, he said, is that sexual orientation isn't always the reason for the separation. "When my ex wife and I separated, while my bisexuality did play a small part in it, it was not the reason we separated," he said. He added that while life might not be perfect, it's good. "My children are happy, healthy, and loved," he said. "That's really what matters the most."

Change the World

Mayor Pete Hopes His (Future) Kids Are "Puzzled" That Coming Out Was Ever Newsworthy

Mayor Pete and husband Chasten don't have any kids yet, but have talked openly and often about their hopes to be dads one day

Pete Buttigieg, who is making waves in the political world by competing to be the first openly gay and (at 37 years old) first Millennial President of the United States, currently doesn't have any children with husband Chasten. But it's clear from his public comments and writings that he and Chasten hope to become dads one day.

And when that day comes, Buttigieg says he hopes his kids will find it puzzling that coming out as gay was ever a newsworthy event. Back in 2015, well before he began his campaign for president, Buttigieg wrote an essay in the South Bend Tribune that said the following:

"Like most people, I would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family. I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy. By then, all the relevant laws and court decisions will be seen as steps along the path to equality. But the true compass that will have guided us there will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings — based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love."

In the meantime, Pete and Chasten are kept plenty busy with their two fur babies, Truman and Buddy.


Fatherhood, the gay way

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