Gay Dad Family Stories

Adopting an Older Child Through Foster Care Was the Best Path for These Dads

After learning more about older-child adoption through You Gotta Believe, Mark and Andrew decided it was the best way for them to form their family.

"Hey! I got adopted today! These are my dads, Mark and Andrew!"

Jeremy was 16 years old when he found out his new dads wanted to adopt him.

In late August 2017, husbands Mark and Andrew Mihopulos, 34 and 36 respectively, remember driving out to the east end of Long Island. They knew at the very same moment they were driving, social workers were letting Jeremy know they wanted to adopt him. "We expected Jeremy to be hesitant or feel mixed emotions," shared Mark. "We didn't know how he would feel about having two dads and about having white parents and family, as he is a black young man."


Much to their surprise and relief, Jeremy was overjoyed and excited about inviting two new dads into his life and beginning a new life with them. After arriving, the three enjoyed lunch on a picnic table outside in the sun, and Jeremy overflowed with questions and ideas about the life they would build together. He literally shouted with joy to anyone who walked by, "I got adopted today!" Mark and Andrew were beyond thrilled to start their new chapter as a family.

Mark and Andrew always wanted to be dads but knew having a baby did not fit their lifestyle. They both had to work full time, and they were reluctant to have their baby raised in a daycare as their parents and families were unable to help with childcare. After engaging in a few webinars about domestic and international adoption, they called Chemene Vizzi, of Long Island adoptive Families Support Group, to learn more about the different adoption paths.

"Chemene, with excitement, shared with us a different pathway to parenthood: older-child adoption of legally freed youth through You Gotta Believe, an adoption agency that focuses on older children and teenagers in need of families," remembered Mark. "Instantly upon learning about nontraditional foster-adoption, we looked at each other and knew that this was an option to explore."

Right away, they called the agency and signed up for their next orientation.

"We attended the orientation, run by a passionate, fun duo – a mother who adopted two older children and a young man who identified as gay and who had aged out of the foster care system himself," recalled Mark. "With authentic experience, they shared the realities of children in care and the strategies for understanding and supporting young people with trauma." By the end of the class, they knew that this pathway to fatherhood fit their reasons for wanting to parent: to give a young person the support and love they need. "It was if it was meant to be."

In March 2017, they began their MAPP classes with You Gotta Believe and completed them in early June of the same year. That month, they also did their home study and signed a month later. In July, they also learned for the first time about Jeremy. "We heard about him from a Wendy's Wonderful Kids representative who worked with You Gotta Believe," shared Andrew. "She told us a little about him and I remember her emphasizing that he was soft-spoken and deeply thoughtful; we were advised to listen closely to him, as he would share amazing thoughts and perspectives."

The dads-to-be first interaction with Jeremy was an informal meeting at You Gotta Believe's annual picnic and pool party. (This was prior to the formal sharing conference with the county, where Mark and Andrew would learn details about Jeremy's story.)

"Jeremy, 16 years old at the time, arrived at the pool pavilion with his backpack held tight and his game face on; at first, he seemed highly guarded," remembered Mark. They managed to engage with him over lunch and organically connected as Jeremy let his walls down. "I remember laughing with him about our dogs, as he shared about a pet he has once had and I told him about our French Bulldog, Tzatziki."

At the time, Jeremy didn't know that the husbands were exploring adopting him, because if they did not match, he would not have to experience rejection or loss. However, Andrew and Mark remember feeling that this young man felt like family.

A month later, they met with the county, listened to their limited information about Jeremy and his history, searched through a literal shopping cart of disorganized paperwork about him. Ultimately, they decided to commit to being Jeremy's dads. The pool party experience helped them contextualize a lot of the information and misinformation presented to them. "Jeremy was not the person reflected in his file," said Mark, "as reports represented him in survival mode and highlighted his challenges, rather than his strengths.

In August 2017, the dads told Jeremy and were thrilled by his response and enthusiasm. Next came the transition period and it proved to be more challenging than any of them imagined.

"The plan was to visit Jeremy over the next few weeks or months, starting near where he lived and gradually bringing him to our home and community, and moving from day visits to weekend visits," explained Andrew. This proved to be not so straightforward. They encountered difficulties with a particular social worker who thought that Jeremy had to earn points on a strict behavior system to earn time with his dads. "This may have been motivated by their feelings about transracial adoption and/or gay men adopting a child, especially because the organization was religious in its mission."

You Gotta Believe helped them in attempting to educate the social worker in the idea that nobody has to earn their family. When this particular social worker left, things became easier for the new family, and his new social worker was much more understanding and supportive of Jeremy building a relationship with Mark and Andrew.

They moved from only hour-long visits in a crowded room with other families, to home visits and exploring the neighborhood of Jeremy's soon-to-be new home. "During this time, he thoroughly enjoyed staying home because, in his words, 'it was quiet,'" said Mark. "It had been a long time since Jeremy had been alone and calm and safe and able to appreciate quiet. He began feeling at home on our weekends together, but he would physically tense up on the rides back from our visits. Returning him to a place where he felt unsafe and unhappy was extremely difficult for us all, but we focused on the end goal of being a family."

In December 2017, on the last day of being 16, Jeremy moved in with his dads. On his 17th birthday, he woke up at home and celebrated with a huge party with family, friends and his team of social workers from You Gotta Believe. He was surrounded by love, support and a home.

Over the next year and a half, Jeremy has grown to balance his families, visiting his biological family every few months and understanding his place in Mark and Andrew's family. He sleeps with Tzatziki and takes care of him, learning responsibility and how to have healthy relationships. "Jeremy's worldview has been widened through his getting to know our friends and his new family, including many cousins and grandparents," said Andrew. "He strives to attend college in a year, when he finishes high school." His dad have confidence that he will exceed expectation and statistics about youth in care. They hope to adopt Jeremy, if he chooses that for himself, when he turns 21.

"We always heard that fatherhood would change everything for us, but we did not fully understand how true this can be," said Mark. "Since morally adopting Jeremy, Andrew and I have become more self-aware and have begun to take better care of ourselves and each other. Together, we have lost 125 lbs by eating healthy foods and working out daily." The dads have grown especially close with the members of Long Island Adoptive Families Support Group, helping lead meetings and develop topics based on their local adoption/foster care needs and their own experiences as parents. Most significantly for Mark, being Jeremy's father helped me to develop a passion for parenting and supporting families. Recently, he changed his career from teaching elementary school to being the LGBT Network's LGBT Families Program Coordinator. "In this role, I get to teach LGBT people about becoming parents, forming families and parenting with best practices."

"Jeremy helped me to understand the good, the bad and the real sides of adoption and foster care and helped me feel empowered to share what I have learned with my community. We hope that our family and our story can help inspire others!"

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Gay Dad Life

Why Limit Yourself to One Path to Parenthood? These Dads Pursed Two!

Pursuing foster care and surrogacy at the same time wasn't easy — but Travis and Jay learned important lessons about both along the way.

Travis, 36, and Jay, 29, met nine years ago in a gay bar in Riverside, California. Both work in the medical device industry and in June 2018, they were married in front of friends and family, and their 19-day-old son through foster care.

To say June 2018 was a big month for Travis and Jay would be an understatement. They became first-time dads to four-day-old Kathan, and solidified their union with marriage. When the wedding part was over, the new dads were able to focus all their attention on their new family. It had been almost 18 months since they began the process of becoming foster parents till they were matched, and while they were waiting, they began to get anxious.

Keep reading...
Expert Advice

Your Foster Questions Answered by a Foster Expert and Foster-Adopt Dad

We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about becoming a foster dad — and Amara's Foster Care Services Supervisor Trey Rabun responded.

Dad Trey Rabun (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a foster Expert and a foster dad with our Instagram community via a question and answer session.

Read Trey's responses below.

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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.

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Politics

Colorado Republicans Try and Fail to Outlaw LGBTQ Marriage and Adoption Rights

A bill introduced by four Republican state legislators in Colorado that would outlaw same-sex marriage and adoption rights was voted down.

The "Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act," which would have outlawed gay marriage and adoption in the state of Colorado, was voted down in the state legislature this week. The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Stephen Humphrey and three of his conservative colleagues: Dave Williams, Shane Sandridge and Mark Baisley.

If enacted, the bill would have enforced "state law that marriage is between one man and one woman" and restrict "adoption of children by spouses in a marriage ... that consist of one man and one woman."

The bill, which had little chance of success, particularly in Colorado which has trended more progressive over the past several election cycles, was mostly symbolic, according to Sanridrge. "We all know this bill isn't gonna pass in this current left-wing environment," he told Colorado Public Radio. "It's to remind everyone, this is the ultimate way to conceive a child."

In a sign of how far we've come on the issue of LGBTQ marriage and parenting rights, most Republican legislators in the state did not endorse the bill.

Though the bill had little chance of passage, LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state are taking the threats seriously nonetheless. Daniel Ramos, director of the LGBTQ group One Colorado, told LGBTQ Nation that the bills were an attempt to return Colorado to its "hate status" of the 1990s, adding the aggressiveness of the measures were "a bit surprising."

Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

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Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

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Change the World

Your Marriage Should Be Gayer, Says the New York Times

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," lists the many insights LGBTQ marriages can offer straight ones.

According to a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this week by Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," turns out the people convinced marriage equality — legal across the United States for five years now — would usher in the complete breakdown of civil society should be more worried about the health of their own marriages.

In the article, Coontz details the results of research that followed 756 "midlife" straight marriages, and 378 gay marriages, and found same-sex couples reporting the lowest levels of physiological distress — with male gay couples reporting the lowest. The reason for this, the author said, is pretty simple — misogyny. The idea that men and women should strive for parity in a relationship is still a fairly new idea, Coontz said, and traditional gender roles are still pervasive. Gay couples, meanwhile, are free from such presumptions, which often results in happier, healthier relationships.

The most interesting findings in the research relate to parenting. While gender norms tend to be even more emphasized among straight people once they have children, with the bulk of the childrearing falling to mothers, same-sex couples — once again freed from the stereotypes of the male/female divide — parent more equitably. As the author notes, "A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples."

When it comes to time spent with children, men in straight marriages spent the least amount of time and the lowest proportion of "nonwork" time, with their children — while men in same-sex marriages spent just as much time with their children as women in a straight relationship. "The result?" Coontz writes, "Children living with same-sex parents experienced, on average, three and a half hours of parenting time per day, compared with two and a half for children living with a heterosexual couple."

Straight fathers devote the least amount of time — about 55 minutes a day — on their children, which includes things like physical needs, reading, playing, and homework. Gay mothers spent an additional 18 minutes each and straight mothers an additional 23 minutes. Gay fathers spent the most time with their children, the study found, an average of an additional 28 minutes a day.

Taken together, straight couples spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes on their children. Lesbian moms spend an additional 13 minutes, while gay men spend 33 more minutes than straight couples.

One factor, the author notes, that can help explain this difference is this: gay parents rarely end up with an unintended or unwanted child, whereas a full 45% percent of pregnancies in straight relationships in 2011 (the last year data is available) were unintended, and 18% were unwanted.

But right. Gay people shouldn't be parents.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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