Change the World

Gay Dads and Their Kids Speak Out for National Adoption Day

This National Adoption Day, we interviewed several gay dads — and their kids — about what adoption means to them

National Adoption Month is celebrated throughout November, and National Adoption Day is today, Saturday November 23. It began in 2000 and is held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Across the United States, D.C. and Puerto Rico, events are held to finalize the adoption of thousands of children in foster care.

In this feature post, we talked to families who came together through adoption. We also were able to ask the kids a few questions - from what they call their dads, to what adoption means to them, and what makes their families special.

Happy National Adoption Day!


Dads Steve and Lorevic with Kaitlyn and Matthew, San Bruno, California

Steve Disselhorst and Lorevic Rivera became dads when Kaitlyn joined their family through private adoption in 2012, and Matthew through the foster-adopt program with the San Francisco County in 2016. Their adoptions were finalized on April 17, 2012, and September 11, 2017, respectively.

Dads Steve and Lorevic

"Neither adoption was easy," shared Steve. "Matthew's was very difficult with lots of twists and turns."

The dads believe celebrating National Adoption Month is incredibly important to bring awareness to adoption across the United States. "It's critical that we share the stories of how families are created and honor both adoptive and birth parents in a unique relationship that places children at the center." With LGBTQ folks 7 times more likely to foster and adopt children than non-LGBTQ folks, and two thirds of the US oppose anti-LGTQ discrimination in adoption services (including a majority of Republicans and Evangelicals), threats of a nationwide license to discriminate are growing. "But by turning away LGBTQ, religious minority, and single parents denies homes to the 123,000 kids in foster care waiting to be adopted," added Steve. "Not to mention, there's an over-representation of LGBTQ youth in foster care. While in care, these young folks report 2Xs the rate of poor treatment 1."

Kaitlyn (7) and Matthew (4)

What do you call your dads:

Papa (Steve) and Daddy (Lorevic)

What is something your dad/s do that makes you laugh:

Kailyn: "When they tickle me. Their jokes. When papa plays the abuela from the movie Coco and says, 'Miquel no music.' Then he grabs the kids and kisses them like the grandma in the movie."

Matthew: "When daddy turns me upside down. When papa gives me a foot massage.

If you could go anywhere with your dads, where would it be?

Kaitlyn: "The art museum and the zoo. To Los Angeles to see my birth family."
Matthew: "Pizza place. Go to NYC to see the Secret Life of Pets in the sewer. India or Paris."

What does the word adopted mean to you?

Kaitlyn; "It means that I am different than other kids. Other kids have a mom and dad. When you are adopted, you have two dads, two moms, or a mom and a dad."

Matthew: "I don't even know what that means"

How does being adopted make you feel?

Kaitlyn: "It kind of makes me sad because I can't see my birth mom every day." (Steve: She also misses her birth father who died. We encourage our kids to be open about their feelings about their adoption.)

What makes your family special?

Kaitlyn: "I am adopted."
Matthew: "When you adopted me."

Dad Erik with sons Edward and Sincere, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Eric Johnson became a dad when he first became a foster parent and welcomed Edward and Sincere into his home December 8, 2016. Their adoption was later finalized February 27, 2019.

Dad Eric

"I have always wanted to be a parent. I decided that I would foster first to determine if I would be able to handle being a parent. When the boys came into my home, it was love at first at sight. We had some challenges but we found ways to overcome those challenges." (Read his story here.)

Erik describes his journey as a wonderful process. "The agency was very supportive and understanding when it comes to supporting the foster family. Each one of the staff made sure that I was supported all they way up until the day of adoption."

Edward (6) and Sincere (4)

What do you call your dad:

Edward and Sincere: "Daddy"

What is something your dad does that makes you laugh?

Edward and Sincere: "When he plays cars and superheroes with us."

How does being adopted make you feel?

Edward: "It makes me feel special that I have a dad who loves me."

If being adopted made you a superhero, what superpowers would you have?

Edward: "To run fast."

Sincere: "To fly."

What makes your family special?

Edward and Sincere: "Having our Daddy"

What's your favorite dinner that dad makes?

Edward and Sincere: "Pizza, burgers and fries!"

Jeff and Michael with Annika, Naples, Florida

Michael Anderson and Jeff Binder became dads when Annika joined their family on May 9, 2012, two days after she was born. Her adoption was finalized on December 12, 2012, coincidentally also her dads' wedding anniversary. "Jeff and I now celebrate the day we met of October 17 as our anniversary and we celebrate December 12 as family day."

Dads Michael and Jeff

"As I tell anyone who is embarking on the adoption journey, it is the most humbling, emotional roller coaster of an experience you can imagine, but in the end, all of it is so incredibly worth it," said Michael.

Jeff and Michael believe celebrating National Adoption Month helps provide visibility. "So that others can see that creating or growing a family through adoption is a viable option that will change the lives of kids who are need of a loving family, plus it's a good opportunity for kids like my daughter to see other families like her own."

Annika (7)

What do you call your dads?

"Papa and Daddy"

If you could go anywhere with your dads, where would it be?

"To Santa's house at the North Pole, or Disneyworld"

What does the word adopted mean to you?

"Adopted means when a mom isn't able to take care of her baby so she finds a family who wants a baby and then they live happily ever after."

What makes your family special?

"I have two dads and I have a lot more family than other people do." (Dad's note: She means like her aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents).

What's your favorite school subjects?

"Science and Reading."

What is the coolest thing about having two dads as parents?

"I don't really think about it. I just like to watch movies with them and eat dessert."

Dads Corey and Brian with Zoey and Brandon, Houston, Texas

Corey and Brian Chartan welcomed their son Brandon on May 23, 2014 through adoption, and again when Brandon's biological sister Zoey joined them on September 8, 2015.

Dads Corey and Brian

"We just really wanted to help out a child or children," said Brian when asked about why they chose adoption. Their journey was "a roller coster of emotions" and they found the unknown element to be rather scary. But they wouldn't change it for a thing! "Without adoption we might not have been able to have children. It has changed our lives tremendously!"

Brandon (6) and Zoey (5)

What do you call your dads?

"Dad and Daddy"

What is something your dads do that makes you laugh?

Brandon and Zoey: "They tickle us!"

What does the word adopted mean to you and how does it make you feel?

Brandon and Zoey: "Being a family, and soooo HAPPY!!!"

If being adopted made you a superhero, what superpowers would you have?

Zoey: "Elsa from frozen."

Brandon: "Thomas the train."

What makes your family special?

Brandon and Zoey: "My dads"

Thomas and Brandon with Benjamin and Giovanni, Orlando, Florida

Thomas and Brandon Feinsod welcomed their sons (biological siblings) on May 27, 2016, and finalized their adoption on August 29, 2016.

Thomas and Brandon

Brandon exposed to the state foster care system through his job and convinced his husband Thomas that they had to provide a family for a child without one, rather than bring another child into this world, and they describe their adoption journey as "bumpy."

"The process of getting licensed to adopt took about three times as long as the social workers originally described to us," said Brandon. "A lot of it had to do with the general struggles of relying on overloaded and underpaid social workers for everything. But it was heartbreaking when holidays went by that we had imagined spending with a child, while we waited for other people to get back to us."

The dads want to raise awareness around adopting through the state foster care system, especially through National Adoption Month. "We need to use any opportunities we have to help show adopted kids that there are plenty of other kids just like them," said Brandon. "Additionally, the majority of people out there aren't even aware that adopting through your state is free, and brings with it state-specific benefits like a monthly subsidy, Medicaid and WIC for the child, and free college tuition." (If anyone has questions for Brandon and Thomas, they're more than happy for folks to reach out.)

Giovanni (9) and Benjamin (8)

What do you call your dads?

"Daddy and Dad"

If you could go anywhere with your dads, where would it be?

Benjamin: "Medieval Times!"

Giovanni: "I would want to go to NASA and see a rocket ship go into space."

What does the word adopted mean to you?"

Benjamin: "Adopted means that you have a family."

Giovanni: "In my opinion, adopted means to give someone love."

How does being adopted make you feel?

Benjamin: "Happy, and excited."

Giovanni: "Special."

If being adopted made you a superhero, what superpowers would you have?

Benjamin: "Turn invisible and run really fast."

Giovanni: "Making people feel special. Making them want to be kind and sweet to people."

What makes your family special?

Benjamin: "That our dads love us. That makes us special."

Giovanni: "Because we go to special places, like Typhoon Lagoon."

What is the coolest thing about having two dads as parents?

Benjamin: "That they're both silly!"

Giovanni: "That they always tuck me into bed."

***

1"Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign is a project of Family Equality https://everychilddeservesafamily.com/"

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