One Gay Couple's Mission to Help Fellow Native American Families
Johnathon and Corey, both 29, met in 2011 working for the same employer. And since their first date, they've been inseparable. Johnathon is a full-time student pursuing a degree in Human Services, and once he completes his degree, he will return to his Native American tribe to help fellow Native American families in need. Corey is a stay-at-home dad. Together they adopted 6-year-old twins, Greyson and Porter, from foster care on June 1, 2017. We caught up with the first-time dads to see how fatherhood was treating them.
Tell us about your path to parenthood. Did you consider other options? We decided to do foster-adopt because there are so many kids who need a forever home and a forever family. Perhaps later on, we would like to do surrogacy but for right now, our hearts belong with kids who need a forever home.
What obstacles did you face on your path to fatherhood? We really didn't have any. We had an outstanding adoption team who were very supportive as well as the [previous] foster family, the Baxters. However, at the beginning, there was an adoption agency that wouldn't allow same-sex couples to adopt so we turned to fostering.
Johnathon (left) and Corey with Greyson and Porter, Marquette, Michigan, 2017
Can you please tell us a little more about that? Back in 2015, I started to call local agencies just to inquire about adoption policies and procedures. However, as with most religious-based adoption agencies, we were turned down for same-sex adoption. I felt like it wasn't fair that we couldn't have a chance to provide for children in need so we decided to obtain our foster license through our local DHS office and were granted placement of our boys through Samartia's Adoption Agency. We had an outstanding support team.
Will you keep in touch with Greyson and Porter's foster family, the Baxters? This was the last and final stop for our boys. Without the support from their previous foster family, the Baxters, we would have had a tough time dealing with behavioral issues as they already witnessed it and knew how to address situations as they arose. We still keep in contact with them which includes invites to their birthday parties and school functions such as choir concerts. They were actually at the adoption hearing and Lori Baxter took our adoption day photos!
Sugarloft Mountain, July 2017
How has your life changed since you became a father? Our life has turned upside down since the day the boys moved in May 28, 2016. I was working 90 minutes from home and Corey was working a full-time job as well. We decided to move closer to my work and for Corey to be a stay-at-home father. This gave us the opportunity to spend more time together as a family. Our lives have changed and everyday our lives are changing even more. We get to provide a wonderful life for Grey and Porter. Before the boys moved in it was just Corey and me, and our three dogs, living our lives, with a missing piece to our puzzle.
What have you learned from your children since you became a dad? Since Greyson (6) and Porter (6) (they're twins) have moved in, we've learned so much about these two wonderful boys! However, Greyson and Porter came from the foster care system which indicated some behavioral problems. However, these issues did not stand in our way. As parents we became more patient with them and ourselves. We learned how to handle situations that were triggered by a past traumatic experience in the most unique kind of way! At the end of the day as we put Greyson and Porter to bed they tell us how much they love us and how much they are happy to have us as their fathers.
The family at Niagara Falls, 2017
Was there ever a moment that you or Corey experienced any serious doubts about your path to fatherhood or fatherhood itself? There was never any doubts becoming fathers. There are some extended family members from Corey's side that are completely against this and feel that this is wrong. Let's just say, they are missing out on the wonderful life we are providing for our boys. It's a loss for them [but] not loss for us.
Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation? We live in a community that is extremely supportive. Coming from a Native American Tribe, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP), my tribe has been nothing but accepting and extremely supportive and this includes friends, neighbors and family from our community. We do get the occasional stares, but we stare right back and smile!
Wrapping Ceremony at the adoption hearing
How do you plan to teach your sons about theirs and your Native American cultural heritage? Coming from a strong Native American background, we were blessed as our boys are also Native American and come from another tribe. It's important we keep our culture alive and strong within us. We love to participate with Powwows and other cultural events. At our adoption hearing we incorporated as many Native American rituals as we could including a Wrapping Ceremony which signifies our family as a whole and complete. Our adoption hearing was completed in a Tribal Court so we were allowed to incorporate these rituals. That was my favorite part.
Where do you see your family 5-10 years in the future? Expanded! We would love to have two girls! Having two more kids will make our family complete. Also, we love to travel and I think showing our boys the wonders of the world would be a great family experience as well as a great learning tool.
Porter and Greyson at NHBP Tribal Powwow, June 24, 2017
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering adoption? If you choose to foster, it's real hard not to fall in love with these kids. The hardest part of fostering is the kids going back home to their bio-parents. It could be heartbreaking.
Watch the dads video of the entire year with their two boys: from the day they moved in, right to the when their adoption was finalized!
Answers have been edited for clarity.