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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Indiana Court Says Couples Using Sperm Donors​ Can Both Be Listed on Birth Certificate — But Ruling Excludes Male Couples

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, a major victory for LGBTQ parents — but the Attorney General may appeal to the Supreme Court.

On Friday, a US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling from a lower court that said that both parents in a same-sex relationship are entitled to be listed on the birth certificate — previously, the state of Indiana had required the non-biological parent within a same-sex relationship using assisted reproductive technologies to adopt their child after the birth in order to get her or his name listed on the birth certificate, a lengthy and expensive process not required of straight couples in the same situation.

It's a double standard LGBTQ parents have long been subjected to in many states across the country. So this represent a major win. As reported by CNN, this ruling "takes a lot of weight off" the shoulders of LGBTQ parents, said Karen Celestino-Horseman, a lawyer representing one of the couples in the case. "They've been living as families and wondering if this was going to tear them apart."

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals deliberated the case, according to CNN, for more than two and a half years, which is one of the longest in the court's history.

However, because all the plaintiffs in the case involved female same-sex couples using sperm donors, the ruling left open the similar question of parenting rights with respect to male couples. Indiana's Attorney General, moreover, may also appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

We'll be following the case closely and be sure to keep you up to date. For more on this recent decision, read CNN's article here.

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.

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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.

Gay Dad Life

Gong Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

As we usher in the year of rat, we asked some of our dads how they honor this special time.

Today we're celebrating, alongside our families, the Chinese New Year! As we usher in the year of rat, we asked some of our dads how they honor this special time, what they do to celebrate, and how they're instilling these traditions in their kids. Here are some of their responses.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

As a Gay Dad, What's the Impact of Letting My Son Perform Drag?

Michael Duncan was excited when his 10-year-old son asked if he could perform in drag for charity — but he also felt fear and anxiety.

As LGBT parents, we have all lived through some sort of trauma in our lives. For many it is the rejection of our family, being bullied, or abuse. We learn to be vigilant of our surroundings and often are very cautious of who we trust. As adults, we start to become watchful of how much we share and we look for "red flags" around every corner.

So, what effect does this have on our children? Does it unintentionally cause us to be more jaded with our interactions involving others? For some the answer may be a resounding "no." But as we look deeper into the situation, we often find that through survival our interactions with others have changed and we may not even realize exactly how much we are projecting on those around us.

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Diary of a Newly Out Gay Dad

A Gay Chiropractor Explains Why He Came Out to His Patients

After Cameron Call, a chiropractor, came out to his family this past year, he knew he had one more step to take — he had to come out to his patients

Fear is an interesting thing. It motivates when it shouldn't, shows at inconvenient times, and is the author of stories that do nothing but hold us back. I would argue though, too, that fear has some good qualities. I believe it helps us to feel. And I think it can be a great teacher as we learn to recognize and face it.

For years fear prevented me from embracing my truth and accepting a large part of who I am. I know I am not alone in that regard. But for so long my fear convinced me that I was. Fear is what kept me from ever telling my parents or anyone growing up that I am gay. Fear mingled with strong religious teachings, embraced at a young age, which led me to believe that I could cure myself of my attractions to the same gender. And fear is a part of what kept me in my marriage to a woman for over ten years.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Gains Clarity After a Health Scare

A recent health scare helped give Erik Alexander clarity.

Sometimes fear can cripple the mind and hinder ones judgement. Having children of my own, I have come to grips with accepting the things I cannot change and learned to take action when there is no other choice. When it comes to my own personal health, the future and well being of my family gives me all the clarity I need to make the right decision about any kind of health scare.

This episode is dedicated to all the parents out there that are going through or have gone through similar situations.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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