Gay Dad Life

Family Spotlight: Joaquín, Charles and Alex

“Looking back, I don’t know what life was like before Alex.”


Those are the words of Joaquín Moreno, who together with husband Charles Bell adopted their son through the California foster system last year. The couple wants to speak out about the system, but not because of the reasons you might assume.

For them, Joaquín and Charles say, going through the foster system has been a great experience. They not only were able to begin their family, but they availed themselves of abundant resources from the state.

“It’s a very viable option for a lot of people,” Charles says today.

The two are located in the Monterey, California area and met on Grindr, back in 2010. Joaquín is an inclusion facilitator at a charter school and Charles is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

They married in 2013 (although it wasn’t legal in their state at the time) and made it officially official in July. One thing they both agreed on from the beginning, though, was starting a family.

“Family has always been a huge thing,” Joaquín says. “I want to keep the legacy going, as far as my belief system.”

“We were both at the right place at the right time,” Charles says.

But how would they do it? Based on the experience of some of Charles’s friends, the couple decided to try the foster care system. After making sure their finances were in order, they took classes through a local group called the Kinship Center from October to December of 2012.

They weren’t impressed by the costs and other issues surrounding surrogacy and international adoption. What’s more, they thought, they could help someone local through the foster care system.

“We both know there’s an incredible number of kids in need of families,” Charles says. “We both resolved that was really the method we wanted to go through.”

After finishing their classes at the end of 2012, Joaquín and Charles were ready. And on the trip home from their Palm Springs honeymoon in April 2013 they received a video of Alex.

Charles (l), Alex and Joaquín

“It just hit us, like, Wow, this is really happening,” Charles says.

A week and a half after their return, they met the 4-year-old at a park, active and physical, playing on the monkey bars. They followed that up with overnight visits, then weekend stays. They began to bond.

“You could just tell from his energy that he wanted to find a home,” Joaquín says.

Alex finally came to live with Charles and Joaquín the day before he turned 5 years old, on May 31, 2013. His adoption was formalized a little less than a  year later. He’s now attending second grade and doing well.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but to prove a point: Adoptions from the foster care system can and do succeed.

That doesn’t mean the adjustment didn’t pose challenges.

Joaquín, because of his school job, was off for the summer. Charles took three weeks off from work. They focused on bonding during that time, going on camping trips and helping Alex adjust to the rules of their home.

“It’s a rough time period; people are finding their rhythms,” Joaquín said.

Charles says he lost 15 pounds in the first three weeks that Alex was in their home. Keeping up with a high-energy child could be a challenge.

“Here is someone who’s 5 years old and already has opinions and personality and everything,” he says.

One of the biggest advantages the couple – and Alex – had in getting settled is that Joaquín comes from a special education background. He gave Alex a solid structure, with a regular scheduling and clear expectations.

Charles (l), Alex and Joaquín

It was security Alex didn’t have before, the couple says, and it helped at the beginning as he was getting emotionally regulated. There were times he might want to run out of the house and they would need to talk about safety.

And on occasion, Charles would have to call Joaquín at work and admit: “I don’t know what to do here.”

The state foster system helped, too. It provided attachment therapy sessions twice a month. Alex also had speech therapy sessions and occupational therapy to help his communication and coordination abilities. Both improved dramatically, and have resolved.

“Alex is not the same kid he was when he moved into our home,” Joaquín says today.

They are open about Alex being adopted. “He knows there’s no shame in it,” Joaquín says. “He knows that he’s in a much better place now.”

Those who knew Alex before, the couple says, are “completely amazed by the transformation.”

The couple is currently mulling over adding to their family, although the pieces aren’t all in place to do so quite yet. But they have absolutely no regrets, and urge other couples to educate themselves about the foster system.

“We would gladly do it all over again,” Joaquín says.

“Oh, definitely,” adds Charles.

Photo credit: Michael Falco

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Tripp and Terry’s road to fatherhood of siblings began with the purchase of a bunk bed.

In 2012, two young gay men living in Los Angeles finished their foster-adopt training. Tripp and Terry were 28 and 30 years old at the time. They had met in their final year of college and had been together for six years when they got married on August 21, 2010.

Tripp and Terry always wanted to be dads, but neither of them had any great desire to have a newborn. Tripp’s preferred minimum age was 3, and Tripp describes Terry as being fantastic with teenagers; they met somewhere in the middle and started looking to foster kids in between the age of 6 and 9.

It was the purchase of that bunk bed that launched their search for brothers.

But the road to fatherhood wasn't easy for Tripp and Terry, and their experience with the foster system could best be described as a nightmare. They went through two foster agencies after the first one was shut down due to the CEO embezzling money from the agency. The second agency came with its own set of issues and neuroses, as became clear when they inspected Tripp and Terry’s home and threw away over a hundred dollars worth of spices from the cabinets because the production year had passed!

Tripp (left) and Terry with Chris and Alex

Tripp and Terry's advice to future dads considering fostering: Do your homework! They admit that they did not do enough research for the best possible foster agency and after a quick Google search signed up for classes with the first possible agency. Tripp and Terry also highly recommend that your kids have a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). The role of a CASA is to advocate for abused and neglected children; to gather information, make recommendations to the judge and to represent the child's best interests. “They will be the only person in the courtroom during the process that will advocate for the children,” shared Tripp.

The day after Tripp and Terry completed their training in early May 2012, the phone started ringing. Having only just completed the training program, Terry and Tripp didn’t feel ready for the bombardment of calls, and asked if they were to expect daily calls to start so quickly. When the agency responded affirmatively, Tripp said, “Call us on May 16.”

On May 16, the phone rang. The agency was calling, with the following message: “We have two boys, 6 and 10. They are unwashed, non-English speaking, borderline-intellectual functioning, and severely neglected. Do you want them?” This time, Terry and Tripp said yes.

When the two boys, Chris, 10, and Alex, 6, walked through their door that night, Terry and Tripp were surprised to meet two English-speaking, intelligent boys with, as it turned out, only some minor special needs. Tripp and Terry consider that evening, that moment, as the beginning of their family.

Tripp with Alex

But Tripp and Terry's family wasn't complete. The boys had a sister, Kat, who at first was placed with a different foster family and then went back to live with their birth mom. On December 16, 2014, Terry and Tripp received a call from the Department of Children and Family Services that Kat, who was 15 at the time, had voluntarily left her birth mom’s house and needed a place to live. Despite their initial nervousness, Terry and Tripp knew this was the best alternative and Kat came to live with them.

Alex, Kat and Chris

Today, Alex is 10 years old, Chris is 14 and Kat is 17. When asked to describe each of their kids, here’s what Tripp and Terry had to say:

“Alex is a Tasmanian Devil who has fallen in love with the idea of himself as a super-villain. He's funny and creative and believes he's dating the animated character, Raven, from Teen Titans Go! He's very sweet but prone to anger and aggression when frustrated. At the end of the day, though, quiet, simple moments with Alex (puzzling or drawing or making dinner) are some of my happiest.

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Following our adoption finalization back in January 2015, Eric and I took some much-needed time to decompress and just "be."  Be together; be a family; be three – well three plus two 80 pound boxers!

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When my partner and I first walked into the foster care agency we were really just there to volunteer.

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Adults

Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children

Do we have a biological right to parenthood? Kevin Saunders, a childless 52-year-old gay man, says no.

Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

Two dear friends of mine, each partnered, capable gay men of relatively sound mind and body, have recently decided to become fathers, and I could not be more unnerved. The expense, the risk, the potential for disappointment, the logistical complexity that they must navigate leave me baffled and at times enraged with the lingering question that I have, out of respect, refrained from asking, "WHY, WHY, WHY do you want to do this?!" These feelings toward what most would consider a happy occasion beg a reciprocal enquiry: "Why do you care?" The answer is rooted in a disposition and a history that has left me skeptical of the innate right to biological parenthood that many, gay or straight, seem to feel entitled to.

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Gay Dad Life

Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Gay Dad Life

Gays With Kids Turns Five!

Wow! Time certainly flies when you're busy becoming the world's biggest online resource and magazine for gay, bi and trans dads!

As if we don't have enough going on this June (Stonewall's 50th anniversary! Father's Day! Taylor Swift rounding up all the gays in West Hollywood for her latest music video!) we're also celebrating another milestone here at Gays With Kids: we're officially turning five this month. (And we don't look a day over two, right?!)

To celebrate, we took a look back at some of our most popular essays, photos, news stories and more. What do you want to see us cover in the NEXT five years? Let us know at dads@gayswithkids.com


#10. The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be

Several years ago, we brought you this article: The Hardest Part of Foster Care? The Wait, Say These Dads-to-Be. The article included a video of Antwon and Nate, who were in the midst of their process to become foster dads, which quickly became one of our most popular posts of all time. In this video, they shared how difficult it was waiting for "the" call from the agency letting them know their lives would be forever changed once a child came to live with them.

Want to see how the dads are getting on several years later? Check out this updated video here!

#9. Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids!

Our article, Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids, featuring well-known gay dads from Neil Patrick Harris to Ryan Murphy, quickly became one of our most popular. In the years since, as the ranks of gay dads has continued to grow, we've brought you MANY more stories of gay men in the limelight who are venturing into fatherhood. Check them all out here!

#8. The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad

The Story Behind America's Youngest Gay Dad, which ran back in 2015, is also one of our most popular posts of all time! The post explores the story of Brian Mariano, who became a father with an ex-girlfriend while still in high school. "Everybody in my life is really supportive of me," he said. "If it's someone new and a friend mentions I'm a dad, they will stop. 'Wait, what? How are you a dad? You're gay.' It's like that 'Mean Girls' quote sometimes. You know – 'if you're from Africa, why are you white?'"

#7. When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out. Then He Saw What it Was

This article, When His Son Got a Tattoo, He Freaked Out, definitely plucked the heartstrings of our readers! Which is why it's one of the most popular articles on our site of all time.

"Guess what dad I'm getting a tattoo," Richard's son, Jonathan, texted him. "Don't you dare," was Richard's response. But Jonathan went ahead with it anyway. At first, his dad "fumed." But then he found out what the tattoo was.

"So I got my first tattoo!!" Jonathan wrote on Facebook, of his roman numeral tattoo on his side. "This date is the day that my life changed. This is the day my dads adopted me. The greatest day in my life knowing that for the rest of my life I would finally have a loving family that loved me for me!" (Another one of our most popular posts is this photo essay of gay dads who explain the meaning behind their tattoos.)

#6. 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families

Last year, during February's Black History Month, we ran an article titled 8 Black Dads Share What Black History Month Means to Their Families. To create the post, we asked our community a simple question: as a Black gay dad, what does this month mean to you, your family, and your community? The answers we got back were reflective, poignant and deeply moving, which is why this article became one of our most-viewed ever.

Check out the story here.

#5. 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy

Ok the popularity of this article, 19 Photos of Matt Dallas & Blue Hamilton That Will Make You Green with Parenting Envy, doesn't need that much explanation. Gorgeous, talented, successful and good dads? What's not to love! Also check out this more recent post, Things Husbands (and Gay Dads) Do According to Matt Dallas and Blue Hamilton, which is also quickly climbing the ranks of our most popular!

#4. A Gay Dad's Message From His Heart to his Facebook Friends

This article, A Gay Dad's Message From the Heart to his Facebook Friends, by gay dad Michael Anderson, ran in the troubling aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election, when so many LGBTQ people, our allies, and other vulnerable communities looked (and continue to look) towards an uncertain future.

"Suddenly I don't feel secure anymore," Michael wrote. "Vice president-elect Pence has an extensive anti-gay record from supporting gay conversion therapy on kids that literally includes trying to (but failing to) electro-shock the gay out, to signing legislation in his state in 2013 to jail any same-sex couple who attempted to get a marriage certificate. All of the progress that we have made that gives my family a sense of belonging and security is very likely to be erased."

For more of our ongoing political coverage, including the 2020 race, check out these articles as well.

#3. Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants

Our third most popular article, Helping Gay Men Afford Adoption Through Sizable Grants, features our good friends Help Us Adopt, an amazing non-profit organization that helps adoptive parents offset the substantial costs associated with the process. They are also dedicated to inclusivity, and are one of the few financial resources available for gay adoptive parents. Check out this great profile of their work!

#2. 9 Times Gay Dads Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics

Gay dads love a good photo opportunity. So obviously this photo essay of gay dad pregnancy announcement pics is high up on our list as well. This photo essay, 9 Times Gay Men Crushed Their Pregnancy Announcement Pics, is our second most popular. Check out this most recent roundup of pregnancy announcement pics, which is also climbing the

And Our MOST Viewed Article of All Time Is... 

Gay dads do Halloween right! So it's no surprise that this article, 13 Dads Giving You Major Family Halloween Costume Goals, is our most viewed of all time! And though Halloween may still be months away, why not prepare early with a look at some of our other most popular Halloween articles!

Gay Dads Snap Pics at the Pumpkin Patch
Nobody Does Halloween Like Neil Patrick Harris and Fam
31 Gay Dads Serving Major Halloween Costume Inspo (and Where to Get The Looks!)
Get Your DIY Skills On for Halloween, Dads!







THANK YOU!

Lastly, a big thank you to all of our readers! It's thanks to you that we now can claim the biggest online community of gay, bi, and trans dads in the world (not to mention two GLAAD award nominations ;) We can't wait to see what the next five years bring!

Fatherhood, the gay way

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