Foster Care is a Marathon, Not a Sprint, Say These Gay Dads
Be ready to approach the foster care process with lots of patience, say these gay dads
Together over 18 years, Derek, an accountant, and David, a therapist and college professor, spent a long time waiting for the dream of a family to come true. They met through a mutual friend in the summer of 1999 in Boone, North Carolina, and now live in Newton, NC. Married in 2010, it wasn't till mid-2016 that they met their then 3-year-old son, Malachi. Here's their story.
Derek and David began thinking about fatherhood many years ago. They knew they wanted to be parents, but did not want to have a child while the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which forbid federal recognition of same-sex marriages, was law and risk only one parent having legal protection. So they decided to wait. When DOMA fell in 2013, the husbands heard the news on the way to the Atlanta Pride parade and immediately the conversation of kids was brought back to the table. By 2015, they were licensed foster parents, and then began the real waiting.
"We would get phone calls about children meeting our criteria weekly it seemed," said Derek. "For whatever circumstance or other they never would fit or [they would] be placed with another family very quickly. We went through the emotional ups and downs a lot!"
It wasn't till halfway through 2016 that, through a series of events that Derek and David describe as fate, a social worker reached out to the dads-to-be about a child who they thought would be a good match. After meeting the child's social worker, guardian and adoption specialist, they met Malachi a couple of weeks later. By September 2016, he had moved in with his dads.
We caught up with Derek and he shared their family's story.
Tell us about your path to fatherhood. We considered all options. We looked into private adoption as well as surrogacy. We ultimately decided there were children in our home state that needed a loving home.
Tell us about any obstacles you faced on your path to fatherhood. Hardest parts of our journey was the waiting. We would get a call that a child matching our preferences was available. We would say yes, and before we could get back to the agency representing the child, they would be placed somewhere else.
How has your life changed since you became a father? Life has completely changed. We made a choice to be parents and we no longer go out to clubs, keep crazy hours, etc. our focus is on family time.
How did you and David find the adjustment of becoming dads after it being just the two of you for so long? Adjustment was something else. Yes, David and I had some struggles taking into consideration that we now were responsible and had to factor a tiny human into our plans every weekend, where we ate, and just the logistics. Privacy - what's that? Our son is one that always wants to be where we are. Whether it's in the living room watching T.V. or trying to use the restroom. Transitioning from getting to snooze that extra few minutes to now, where we barely make it out the door on time to drop off at daycare, get coffee, and pull into the office for me or make it to class before the final bell for David is a remarkable feat. Although, if I am completely honest, we love it. We have dreamed of being parents, and our son makes us young.
Photo credit: Orange Cat Photo, Dana Andreasson
What have you learned from your child since you became a dad? Patience. We have also learned that what our parents did doesn't always work. Times are different and children respond differently. My parents had a firm hand and strict rules while we have rules but not necessarily a firm hand.
Was there ever a moment that you or David experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself. We agreed we would not pursue being parents unless we could both be a part of the adoption. We also struggled with the thought that we would not be considered for placement of a child because we are a same-sex couple. We knew that when the Supreme Court ruling was handed down we would be protected to start our process.
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? Be patient. It is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. One of the last things my grandmother said before passing away while knowing we were in the process of placement, she told me with a tear in her eyes to be patient. It will happen. It will reveal itself to you when the time is right.
Photo credit: Orange Cat Photo, Dana Andreasson
Where do you see your family 5-10 years in the future? In five years, our son will be 9. Maintaining busy schedules packed with athletics, arts, and trips to Disney World. Keeping our family well balanced.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experiences creating or raising your family? It is the greatest journey we have ever been on.