Gay Dad Family Stories

These Dads Have Simple Advice For Other Gay Men Considering Foster Care: Put the Kids First

Though it took a full year to become licensed foster dads, Robby and David say it was a "wonderful experience."

Fostering has changed the lives of many dads in the Gays With Kids community. Sometimes the outcome of fostering can be heartbreaking, and other times, it's been the most joyous and wonderful new beginning for our families. Often times, it's both.

Although all the stories are different, one piece of advice we hear time and time again is this: remove your ego and put the children first. That's the one piece of advice foster-adopt dad, Robby Swagler, would give to anyone considering fostering.

Robby met his husband David Swagler, both 30 years old, when they were in college at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. They both loved kids and decided to become foster parents, inspired by the overwhelming number of children in the foster care system. They wanted to provide a loving home for a child in need.


In March 2015, a little over 3 years after they were married, they began the licensing process. It involved 6 weeks of pre-service classes, and a home study by an agency. That took another six months. By March the following year, everything was in order and they were ready to begin fostering.

"The overall experience of getting licensed was wonderful!" shared Robby. "We had so much support from friends and family." And the other couples in the class were even more supportive. The dads-to-be formed strong bonds with three couples in particular, and they've since watched and supported one another go through each other's journey.

Two months after being licensed, Robby and David received their first placement: three-month-old twins, Joanna and Evan.

The next year and a half were an emotional rollercoaster for the foster dads. In foster care, a priority is always placed on family reunification, when possible, if it is in the best interest of the children. So Robby and David knew there was a high probability that the twins could be placed back with their biological parents.

"Throughout that year and a half we didn't have much control of the situation," explained David, "and a lot of our hope was placed in the faith of the system doing the right thing." The twins' biological mother was understandably torn about her decision, but in the end, she decided to terminate her parental rights. But just as that happened, the biological father tried to get custody – Robby and David hadn't known who the biological father was until that moment.

After a very long and emotional day in court – for everyone – the judge granted the state custody, and the dads adopted Joanna and Evan right after their second birthday, in February 2018.

During this time, the dads also fostered another 9-month-old boy. They cared for him for 4 months before he was reunited with his grandmother. "That was very emotional as well. We were very bonded to him," said Robby.

Robby and David are very cognizant of being two white men raising African American twins. They were very selective, then, about daycare. Ultimately, they chose a culturally and racially diverse daycare that represented their family, and that would allow their twins to interact with other families like theirs. "We have found it very easy to meet and interact with other interracial families through daycare and friends," explained Robby. "However, we've found it difficult to meet other gay men who have children. We live in a pretty rural area and haven't met many other gay couples."

As much as the dads would love to have the opportunity to find other gay dad families in the area, they are very happy to share that the relationship between the three foster-adoptive families Robby and David met when they began their fatherhood journey, has continued. In July 2017, they all rented a house in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for a week. "All the kids had a wonderful time swimming and relaxing!" said Robby. "It's been very beneficial for us and the other parents to have a friendships due to the fact we understand one another's families and how challenging the process can be."

As the twins near their 3rd birthday, the dads nights are filled with bedtime stories and family routines. "My children have taught me to enjoy the little things in life again," said Robby.

And to all those thinking about fatherhood? "As a gay man, I've had many thoughts that having children would never happen. Stay focused on your goal of becoming a father and it will happen!"

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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.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

A Gay Dad Speaks Out Against Trump's Attempts to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Adoptive Parents

Any business that accepts federal funding must NOT DISCRIMINATE says adoptive dad Erik Alexander.

Four years ago we received the phone call that changed our lives forever. We were told that in our own city of New Orleans, there was a newborn baby that needed a forever home. What we were told by the agency would likely take five or more years took mere weeks. We frantically started putting together her nursery and planning for her arrival. She was born 10 weeks early and needed to stay in the NICU to grow and gain her strength and weight before she was released. She was so tiny and delicate. We were almost afraid to hold her in the beginning because of how fragile she was.

Finally, the day arrived that we were able to bring her home and we were thrust into overdrive. We prepared by reading all the baby books and watching the videos, but all that goes out the window when you have a baby in your arms. Our little baby had trouble digesting her formula due to her prematurity. The look in her eyes due to the pain she felt broke our hearts. We felt helpless! All we could do was just try to make sure to do everything on our end to help alleviate any pain she may encounter while feeding her. It was terrible. We would hold her for hours trying to console our hurting baby girl. I remember thinking to myself while she was crying that I would do anything to make her feel better.

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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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Change the World

Miami Tourism Board Releases Vacation Guide for LGBTQ Families

Miami isn't just about circuit parties! The LGBTQ Family-Friendly Miami Vacation Guide showcases many options for queer parents, too.

As gay people, it can be difficult to find vacation spots that are LGBTQ-friendly out of the normal travel "fruit loop" — New York, Mykonos, San Francisco; repeat. For those of us with kids, the Venn diagram of destinations that are both queer and kid friendly can seem practically non-existent.

Fortunately, that's starting to change as the tourism industry realizes that LGBTQ families are a growing segment of vacationers. One city to quickly pick up on this trend is Miami. While the gays have long flocked to Miami for party weekends, the city has also recently noticed an uptick in the number of LGBTQ visitors who are parents. In response, Miami's tourism board release a guide, LGBTQ Family-Friendly Miami Vacation Guide, that includes loads of options for queer parents and their kids. Amid Miami's legendary circuit parties, it turns out, are tons of family friendly things to do — like the Museum of Science, an eco-adventure theme park, and other kid-focused events all year long.

Who knew?

"When I came onboard as Director of LGBTQ Marketing a little over a year ago, I found that our LGBTQ messaging was centered around our annual events," said Dan Rios, who works with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. Massive parties like the White Party and Aqua Girl are a central part of the city's LGBTQ offerings, he said, but he was also worried the city was "developing a reputation solely as a party destination. "I want to diversify that message to highlight everything else that Greater Miami has to offer."

Hence the city's family-friendly guide that includes offerings within "art and culture, dining, beaches, fitness," Dan said. "We have unique and amazing family attractions that we had been promoting to our general audiences for decades. I saw this as an opportunity; an opportunity to introduce our attractions to LGBTQ families, and an opportunity to further promote our attractions -- it was a win-win."

Dan said the Bureau is also in the midst of a campaign that will prominently feature LGBTQ parents within different travel destinations throughout the city, which will be featured throughout both LGBTQ and mainstream websites, publications and advertising.

We applaud the effort to reach out to LGBTQ families, and hope more cities follow Miami's lead! Be sure to check out the guide here.

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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News

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.

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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Fatherhood, the gay way

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