Gay Dad Life

"Hard to Adopt?" This Couple Says Bring it On

Mark Mihopulos, 32, and Andrew Mihopulos, 34, live in Babylon, New York with their French Bulldog, Tzatziki. Mark is a local kindergarten and first grade special education teacher, and Andrew is a teen librarian who runs a range of fun arts, STEM and literacy programs at a local public library. The two have just begun the process to become foster parents. We caught up with the dads-to-be to hear about their experience.


How long have you been together, and how did you meet? We have been together for 6.5 years and married for 2 years. We met through friends, out in downtown Babylon Village. Instantly, we were attracted to each other and the rest is history.

Why did you decide on foster care as your preferred path to parenthood? Did you consider any other options? At first, we discussed together why we wanted to become fathers. We agreed that we want to share our love with a child in need and we want to provide unconditional support and care for a young person. For us, it is important to nurture our child by developing their confidence to explore their identity and to explore the world with wonder and amazement. While researching paths to parenthood, we learned through conversations with friends and co-workers who had been adopted themselves, those who had grown up with adopted relatives and those who had built their families through domestic infant adoption and through surrogacy. Keeping in mind our motivations, we narrowed down the options and began to explore adoption agencies.

We began to feel comfortable with one NYC-based agency that offered educational webinars and learned from these interactive virtual presentations about a range of paths to parenthood and about the benefits of open adoption. We learned that many of the international programs either involved nations that have laws prohibiting LGBT people from adopting or required long visits to the countries and were limited to the adoption of youth with severe medical special needs. This pathway didn't feel right for our family, as we are both professionals who could not take off enough time to provide sufficient support for these children nor for the travel involved. As a result, we began the application for domestic infant adoption. In our discussions and thoughts, we worried about being able to balance work and the demands of a baby. We considered the experience of our baby growing up in daycare and explored how our parents could help us. We also imagined the potential search process involving social media and expectant parents and their families. We kept reading and researching to learn from those with experience.

A local support group, Long Island Adoptive Families helped us change our minds by opening us up to another option we had not yet considered: adoption from foster care, via the Long Island branch of the agency, You Gotta Believe. At first, we inaccurately assumed that if we chose this method, we would ultimately face loving a child whom we would likely have to return to their biological family. Our goal was to be permanent parents and we felt that being foster parents was simply not our goal. As we heard from people who had built their families through this uncommon process, we learned about the many children and young people who have been legally freed from their biological parents and whose extended families could not adopt them. We felt that we had found the path to a child that fit our motivation for fatherhood. These children are in need of love; many have experienced trauma both in their path to foster care as well as across their experience in care. Far too often, these children are wrongly viewed as "unadoptable." Through a very special, very focused, very passionate adoption agency, You Gotta Believe, we will be able to provide permanency and love to someone who really needs it.

Many prospective parents are weary of the challenges that can come with adoption an older child from the foster care system, but you are expressly looking to do just that. What is your motivation to do so? What are you most excited/worried about? Through You Gotta Believe's MAPP/GPSII ten-week course, which specializes in Teen Permanency, we learned about the experience of adopting an older child or teenager from people who had much experience in their own lives. The class taught us about trauma and support, behavior and response, attachment and love, and the process of becoming parents on this pathway. The facilitators, an adoptive mother of a teen and a young man who had aged out of foster care before being adopted, spoke with honesty, humor and strategies. This empowered us to feel we were capable of handling the challenges that a young person in our home could or would present.

We are mostly worried about the unknowns involved in the search and matching process. We wonder about being prepared for what we have yet to experience. We worry that the child feels comfortable and supported through their transition to our home and to our lives together. The course used guided meditations and creative arts experiences to envision ourselves as people in foster care, focusing on emotions and relationships across life changes. This helped us to relate as human beings to this population. We are most excited about becoming positive forces in our child's life. We look forward to forming bonds through sharing common interests and fun experiences and mutual growth. We are energized to work through the challenges to help our child understand that they are loved and supported unconditionally. It is exciting to anticipate their growth.

Tell us more about your adoption agency, You Gotta Believe. You Gotta Believe is the only NYC agency that exclusively focuses on finding permanent families for older children, teens and young adults in foster care. The organization originated out of the founders recognizing a connection between aging out of foster care and homelessness in Brooklyn. They are a small agency of driven individuals who have fervor for their work, which focuses on supporting older children and teens who have been legally freed from their birth parents, making them in need of adoption. Every person involved in the process is open and honest and most are personally invested in the cause. They take great care in preparing and supporting their families. During the orientation and MAPP/GPSII classes, the organization prepares and empowers potential parents, without pressuring them, as their true desire is to create permanency through families for these young people. You Gotta Believe provides careful and gradual transition from care into the forever family's home through a six to twelve month visitation period, allowing all members of the adoptive family to grow together with ongoing support. You Gotta Believe emphasized to us that there will be 24-hour support from their professionals, both for us as parents and for our child. We don't feel alone on this journey; we feel supported and confident.

One very unique aspect of this agency is their deep commitment to supporting the LGBTQIA community, from welcoming LGBTQIA parents to their inclusive trainings (two sections of which are respectively held at Manhattan's LGBT Center and Long Island's LGBT Network in Bay Shore, NY) to their emphasis on the experiences of the disproportionate population of LGBTQIA youth in foster care. You Gotta Believe explained to us that a young person's coming out is a common reason some foster families choose to disrupt the placement, rejecting the child for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Formally, they require that all of their families agree to be affirming homes through a pledge at the home study signing and a specific required course on being affirming families. Additionally, according to their website, You Gotta Believe is affiliated with the NYC Administration for Children's Services LGBT Action Group and The Center's LGBT Foster Care Project, supported the Heart Gallery NYC's first PRIDE photo exhibit of LGBTQ youth and families and has been honored by the Human Rights Campaign with their All Children-All Families Seal of Recognition. This significant LGBTQIA emphasis helped us to feel understood and comfortable sharing the very personal questions and concerns that arise across the experience of adoption, as well as during the search process.

Where in the process are you? This past spring, we completed the 30 hour MAPP/GPSII course for New York State licensing for foster care, which is required because we will technically be fostering our child until they are legally adopted. We recently signed our home study after a wonderful visit from a warm and friendly gentleman who encouraged us and shared his advice and expertise. Currently, we are involved with the search process for a child. We regularly review the state photo listings and AdoptUSKids.org for potential children about whom we would like to learn more. If the child's home county feels we are a positive match, based on our home study, we can learn more about the child in order to determine if they are a good match for our family.

What has been the most challenging part of the process so far? For us, the most challenging part of the process so far has been trusting that we are on a journey that will bring us to the right family. It will happen when it is supposed to happen and we have to trust that, even when we feel impatient.

What has been the most surprising part of the process so far? The most surprising part of the process has been learning about the realities of foster care and the system of adoption for older children and teenagers. Our eyes have been opened to the less than hopeful and often traumatizing experiences of these youth living in group homes, foster homes and residential facilities. If more people were aware of the impact these experiences have on these youth in adulthood, more people would explore adoption from foster care. If more people knew about the positive experiences of families with these young people, this pathway to parenthood would be much more common. One book that resonated with us is Nia Vardalas' Instant Mom, which reflects on the family building journey of the writer and star of the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and her husband. This adoption from foster care knowledge has motivated and empowered us incredibly!

What advice would you give to other gay men considering fostering children, particularly older children? We highly suggest exploring why you want to be parents. Search your heart deeply on your own and together. Make sure it is about what you can give as opposed to what you can get out of the experience. If you truly want to be fathers, investigate adoption from foster care. Get information: learn directly about the experiences of people who have been adopted, those who aged out of the foster care system and adoptive parents who have faced the challenges and enjoyed the joys of parenthood. Also, ask questions to assure your agency is affirming to all adults and youth who identify or could in the future identify as LGBTQIA. Lastly, enjoy the journey at every stage of the process!


For more stories on foster-adopt:

Adopting 10 Kids Through Foster Care

Alec Mapa & Jaime Hebert: Fame, Family & Foster Care

Finding Life: A Documentary About Building Family Through Foster Care

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Gay Dad Life

How Canada's 'Gay Dollar' Helped This Gay Man Reflect on His Biggest Regret—Not Having Kids

Canada unveiled a 'gay dollar' coin earlier this year, helping Gregory Walters reflect on the progress the LGBTQ community has made—and his decision to forgo having children children

Earlier this year, Canada unveiled a rainbow-stripped coin dollar to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country's decision to decriminalize homosexuality. With the coins now firmly in circulation, Gregory Walters, who lives in Vancouver, wrote a moving essay for the Globe and Mail, expressing joy for how far Canada has come on the issue of gay rights, but how the coin is also a symbolic representation of the "greatest regret" of his life—his decision not to adopt children.

Gregory writes that he had hoped to adopt a child ever since his early career working with persons with developmental disabilities. "Several children I worked with were wards of the State of Texas," he wrote. "Their parents having relinquished all rights either owing to egregious acts of abuse or a lack of desire to raise someone with so many needs. There were days when I felt, 'If I could just take you home and raise you.' I knew there was a need for adopting persons with special needs but my own internalized homophobia got in the way yet again. Despite what is probably my own gift in working with children, I never felt worthy enough to be a parent. I always felt that if I were a gay dad it would create more of a liability for the child."

Gregory decision to forgo having children, he says, is his "greatest regret." While he takes responsibility for some of this decision, he also adds: "society's view of homosexuals and its opinions regarding gay adoptions also played a major part."

To critics of Canada's coin, some of who have said its a cheap political pander to the LGBTQ community, Gregory concludes with this thought:

"I don't care if the indulged majority who never had to question marriage or raising children or being secure in a job may feel the coin is frivolous. The coin isn't for them in the first place. It's an acknowledgment for those of us who repressed our true selves and felt oppressed. It is for gays who never lived to see rights and protections enshrined in law. It is for younger LGBTQ people to learn more about how far we've come and to gain a deeper sense of gay pride. For these reasons, the coin has value so much greater than any monetary designation. The coin represents both empowerment and normalization."

Read Gregory's full essay here.

Gay Dad Life

8 Pics of Ricky Martin Being an Adorable Dad Because Why Not?

Here's some pics of Ricky Martin being an adorable dad because we've ALL had a long week and deserve this don't we??

Earlier this year, in January 2019, superstar Ricky Martin and his husband Jwan Yosef shared a post via Instagram announcing that they'd welcomed a baby girl named Lucia into their family. With twin 9-year-old sons in the house as well, Ricky and Jwan now have a very full casa. Fortunately, the dads are giving us a little glimpse into their chaotic but fun-filled home lives via Instagram. We rounded up 8 of our fav recent parenting pics by the popstar because we've all had long weeks and we deserve this don't we??

Enjoy!

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Gay Dad Life

17 T.V. Shows Featuring Gay Dad Characters

Gay dads are all the rage on the small screen these days... here are 17 shows that prominently feature gay dad characters!

The 2019-2020 TV season will soon be upon us! In recent years, gay dad characters have been all the rage... will we see more representation this fall? We sure hope so! But in the meantime, we'll be content reviewing this list of 17 shows that have (somewhat) prominently featured gay dad characters!

Also we KNOW we're missing some, so drop us a line in the comments to tell us what we should add!

1. Grace & Frankie

In this Netflix original series, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston play gay dads who come out to their wives and children well past their primes. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda play the ex-wives, rounding out the star-studded cast. Now in its fourth season, the show has been well received and sheds an interesting light on the complications involved with fathers who come out later in life.

Entertainment

How Fatherhood Has Impacted Tom Daley's Diving Career for the Better

British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

One Gay Dad's Fight Against Hate in Superior, Nebraska

Brian Splater is refusing to let homophobic and transphobic elected officials in his town go unchecked

Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Entertainment

Hate Group Boycotts 'Toy Story' for Featuring Lesbian Moms—Hilarity Ensues on Twitter

"One Million Moms" announced a boycott of the latest Toy Story movie for *very briefly* featuring lesbian moms. Twitter's response was swift and hilarious.

One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, recently called for a boycott of Toy Story 4 for (very, very briefly) featuring (interracial!) lesbian moms in the animated film. The angry, hateful moms affiliated with this group must have watched the film VERY closely because you could easily blink and miss the moment that apparently "blindsided" viewers.

The Internet reacted with a collective facepalm to the ridiculous boycott. Here are some of our favorite hilarious Twitter reactions to the hateful group:

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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