TOP - Dad Life

Rob Chasteen-Scheer: From Homeless Teen to Tireless Advocate for Foster Kids

Rob Chasteen-Scheer overcame years of abuse and homelessness to become a father to four at-risk children. He is the founder of “Comfort Cases," a non-profit organization that provides backpacks with essentials to tens of thousands of foster kids. This past year, he has received much-deserved recognition for the charity's invaluable work: In March, Rob was honored at the Family Equality Council Impact Awards in Los Angeles, California. In August, he and Comfort Cases were featured in People; a few days ago, Rob was a guest on NBC's “Today." This article represents the first time Rob is sharing his own personal story in such a public way.


Rob Chasteen-Scheer knows hunger — real hunger. Although it has been many years since he experienced it, the painful memories of that hunger are always with him. He will go to great lengths to avoid it. And so, after a dinner with guests, he feels compelled to go to the grocery store. The pantry is often still full.

Abused and neglected throughout his childhood, orphaned at 10, homeless his senior year of high school after aging out of the foster system, Rob has overcome every challenge in his life to become a successful businessman, a loving husband and a doting father of four. But that gnaw of hunger can quickly drag him back to those earlier years, when he was living on the streets as he tried to graduate high school.

“That feeling of hunger is something you never forget — that pit in my stomach," he said. “I tell my children, 'Whatever you want to eat, whenever you want to eat.' I never want my children to feel that hunger. Because once you feel that hunger, you never forget it."

Rob (left) and Reece in an early family photo

Calling Life's Bluff

Rob often calls the circumstances of his early life “the cards I was dealt." There's no doubt he was dealt a losing hand. His mother married six times and had 10 children, of whom Rob was the youngest. Addicted to drugs, Rob's mother raised her family in conditions that he thought were normal — being shuffled from shelter to shelter, in and out of foster care, siblings in and out of jail. His stepfather was a sadistic predator, sexually abusing Rob from an early age.

“My father would hold a gun to my or to my sister's head and ask my mother, 'Which one do you want me to shoot tonight?'" he says. “And that was just fun for them. They would drink and laugh."

His mother died of breast cancer when he was 10. Rob was to be sent to live with his biological father, but those plans changed when the man died suddenly and unexpectedly. At this point, Rob's stepfather abandoned him, and the young boy was left to live with a woman neighbor who agreed to foster him. Rob describes his emotions at the news of his mother's death and his subsequent foster placement as feelings of tremendous relief; the abuse he had suffered had been that bad.

He would be dealt another bad hand, though. While Rob took comfort in the care his foster mother offered, his foster father didn't share his wife's compassion.

Rob (circled) in his Grade 5 Yearbook. This is one of very few photos that Rob has from his childhood.

“I remember, it was my 18th birthday. It was a weekday. My foster father, when he realized no more checks were coming, put my clothes into a trash bag and I became homeless my senior year of high school."

Only a year away from graduation, Rob had no family and no home — only a trash bag of clothes and in his heart “a desire to be better than what I was supposed to be — I didn't want to become a statistic." Somehow he was able to continue his studies. During the coldest nights, friends snuck him into their houses at night so he could sleep on their couch. Other times, he recalls hoping that kids at the school wouldn't make fun of the stink that enveloped his old clothes and unwashed body. He worked part-time at a taco shop, and in the evenings he slept in an unlocked public bathroom, often having to endure abuse from sexual predators. On Fridays at school, he would take leftover food from other students' plates in the cafeteria so he could be sure to have food to eat over the weekend.

After a year of homelessness, Rob called life's bluff: he graduated from high school. Looking back, he is unable to describe just what exactly kept him going, what it was that kept him motivated to succeed when the odds were so stacked against him. Everyone around him had failed him, yet he refused to give up.

“I would see other families, and I would see the love they had for their children, and the children for their parents, and I yearned for that," he says. “And I knew that I could have that. I just didn't know when."

From “Robert" to “Rob"

After graduation, Rob enlisted in the Navy. For the first time in a long time, he no longer had to worry about where he would spend the night or how to find his next meal. He went to Fort Meade, Maryland, and while he was waiting to be processed, he was put up at a hotel. He couldn't remember the last time he slept in a bed, and so the act of doing so now caused him to cry uncontrollably, like he had never cried before. As he took a shower, he felt his past cling to him like filth. “For maybe an hour, I was scrubbing not the dirt you could see on me, but the dirt I could feel inside of me," Rob says. “So much had happened in 18 years and I wanted to wash it all away. I didn't want to be this guy anymore. I didn't want to be Robert Chasteen anymore."

His ablution complete, he reported to the station as Rob. He had only ever been called Robert. What might seem a simple nickname to many marked the biggest turning point in this man's life.

He graduated with honors from boot camp and served as a yeoman in the Navy for two years. Afterward he went into office work for a mortgage company and worked his way up the ranks. By the time he met his husband, he was a senior vice president.

“I can't tell you the difference between they're, their, and there," he says, joking, “but I can tell you that hard work pays off and if you work hard you can make it."

When old high school friends saw him, they admitted they were shocked he had done so well.

“The friends who knew me as a young child, they would say, 'We thought you would end up a drug addict or on the streets,'" Rob says. “That's what they expected from me, and that's what most people expect from kids who were in foster care."

Rob holding Tristan with Makai standing in front of him; Reece holding Greyson with Amaya in front of him.

Accepting the past

When Rob met Reece, he had just come out of a serious relationship of 11 years. Rob had ended that relationship because he knew he wanted kids. His ex didn't.

“My very first question to Reece was, 'Do you want to be a dad?'" Rob says. “And he said, 'Yes, but not until after I get my master's degree.'"

The two men laughed. “I knew I wanted to date someone going down the same path I was — and that meant kids."

Rob talks about his sexuality as something he had known since a young age. But during his early years he didn't have many chances to explore. He just knew he was attracted to other men, and he was only able to explore gay life in his early 20s. Unfortunately, that was the mid-to-late '80s, the height of the AIDS crisis.

“Everybody was saying that if you had sex with men, you were going to get this 'gay cancer,'" he says. “I was scared to death. I had worked so hard to get to where I was, and now, if I had sex with someone, I was going to die?"

He educated himself and came into his sexuality, but like so many gay men from those days, he lost many friends.

Coming out as gay was easy in comparison to coming out to Reece about his past.

“When I did tell him about my past, I said, 'We don't talk about that,'" he says. “I thought that as long as nobody knew about my past, I could continue to live this life that was so grand and great."

The two men had been together for four years when Rob started pressing adopting overseas. One Saturday morning, as the two had breakfast, an ad came on television — a rerun of Barbara Harrison's “Wednesday's Child" segment, which every week featured a different foster child in need of adoption. Reese asked Rob, "Why aren't we adopting a child out of foster care?"

“I said, 'I know what those kids are like. I'm not talking about this,'" Rob remembers. “And Reece said to me, 'Do you know how many kids you've let down by not talking about this?'" And I started to cry. I cried like I hadn't cried since I was 18 years old, in that hotel room. It was an aha moment. People deserve to know how hard I worked and to be proud of where I came from and where I went."

That Monday, Rob took off from work, and the couple went down to Child Services in Washington, D.C. where they started their long journey to foster-adopt a baby. Even after the classes, the home visits, the certifications, they knew the waiting list in D.C. for adopting a baby was at least two years. But that didn't stop Rob from dreaming of becoming a dad some day.

Family Matters

In January 2009, a case worker called with two children — a sister and brother. They had been in care for three months and had been through two other foster homes already. While they were waiting for their baby, Rob shares that he and Reese felt that "...if we could change a child's life just for one day while we're waiting for a baby, it will be worth it for us," he says.

The siblings came to Rob and Reese's brownstone for their first visit soon after. Amaya, 4, was expressionless; her brother, Makai, was 2 and looked much younger. Severe tibia trauma had stunted the growth of his legs; he was being carried like an infant.

“I looked at Reece," Rob says, “and he was just as in love as I was."

After months of waiting, suddenly they were given an opportunity to become parents to two kids. They had to decide if they were ready to change their plans and provide a forever family for Amaya and Makai instead of the baby they had been waiting to adopt. Without any hesitation, they said yes.

When they went to pick up the children from their foster home, they found the kids waiting for them with trash bags of clothes by their sides.

After only a couple of months, two more boys, a pair of young brothers, became available. Greyson had three broken ribs and a brain hemorrhage from having been shaken; Tristan had a huge scar. His mother had allowed her boyfriend to carve his initials on the boy's chest.

Despite these kids being labeled “problem children," Rob and Reece were not only willing to take them, but they wanted to take them. However, an administrative rule initially prevented the dads from keeping all four children and they were literally told to choose either Amaya and Makai or Greyson and Tristan. Instead, Rob went to City Hall to insist the dads could offer loving care for all four of the children.

This was not his only visit to City Hall, as he found himself having to advocate on his children's behalf time and again. D.C. Child Services was not accustomed to having to deal with such a tireless advocate, and so they eventually transferred the family to a private organization, where the kids received considerably better attention and a higher-level of service. “We were too much for them to handle," Rob says, laughing.

After years of dreaming, after a childhood of cold nights in cars or homeless shelters, and after an early adulthood of working through the ranks of a company while hiding his past, Rob became a father of four in the span of about three months. He fought to adopt and to care for all his children, both in court and with child services.

When the adoptions were finalized in 2010 and 2012, he gave the children's biological parents a phone number.

Comfort Cases, Rob's nonprofit, in action

“We told them, 'We will always have this phone. We will never disconnect this number. If you go into treatment and you want to be part of your kids' lives, you can you can always break bread at our table. You just have to make the right choices.'"

In the years since, the phone has only rung once: Amaya and Makai's great-grandmother, who has since become a de-facto grandmother to all four children.

Some of the children remember life before Rob and Reese adopted them, and Rob gives them the advice he didn't get when he was their age, holding his own trash bag of clothing, wondering what would happen next.

“I say to them all the time, 'You embrace your past, you talk about it,'" Rob says. “We have to lead by example, and for so many years, your dad didn't do that."

Stopping the cycle

Rob looks at the Christmas decorations in his living room and considers how far he has come. Amaya is an honors student. Makai, the boy Rob and Reece were told might never walk, is a runner and gymnast. Greyson is a star football player and a very kind young man. Tristan, at 8-year-old the youngest of the children, is the apple of Rob's eye. “My heart is smiling," he says.

Comfort Cases backpacks

The call to action that Rob gives all his children has taken root in Amaya, who helps her fathers with their nonprofit, Comfort Cases. The organization provides backpacks filled with basic needs like pajamas and toothbrushes to children in foster care, so that no child ever has to experience carrying his or her entire life's belongings in a trash bag.

As 2016 ends, Comfort Cases will have sent out 25,000 backpacks filled with essentials to kids in need in the D.C. area. Soon, they hope to go national.

For Rob and his family, it's all about stopping the vicious cycle, the whirlpool of abuse and neglect that sends so many promising children sinking forever downward.

“What happened to me was bad," Rob says. “But if I allowed that to overtake my life, my biological parents, they would have won — they continued this cycle of abuse. It just wasn't going to happen with me. This cycle was stopping here and now."

Editor's note: Next, read the story of Rob's daughter Amaya, who incurred the wrath of One Million Moms after she was featured in All American Girl.

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TOP - Dad Life

Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids!

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Three Eagles, Two Male one Female, Form Nontraditional Family

Three bald eagles in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge are sharing a nest and incubating eggs together

According to the Advocate, three bald eagles — two male and one female — are sharing a news and incubating eggs together.

"Families come in all shapes and sizes, and that's true for wildlife too!" wrote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services on Facebook. "Meet Valor I, Valor II and Starr, a breeding trio of bald eagles that live along the Mississippi River in Illinois. For several years, fans from all over the world have been watching this nontraditional family through a webcam as the eagles deal with the trials and tribulations of parenting."

The thruple came to be in unique way. "The nest was originally inhabited by Valor I and another female eagle named Hope," wrote the Advocate. "Initially, Valor I had poor parenting skills — he didn't hunt or guard the nest while Hope was away. Valor II entered the nest in 2013 to pick up the slack — and taught Valor I some parenting skills in the process. Hope left the nest in March 2017 after she was injured by other birds. But instead of going off to find new mates, the male eagles decided to stick together until Starr joined their nest in September 2017."

Though rare, this isn't the first time that a trio of eagles have come to share nests in this way. According to USA Today, other trruples were have been spotted in Alaska in 1977, in Minnesota in 1983 and in California in 1992.

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Trio Eagle Cam Stewards of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge Live Stream www.youtube.com


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In the U.K.? Join These Dads at Events Supporting LGBTQ Parents!

The dads behind the blog TwoDads.U.K are ramping up their support of other LGBTQ parents. Check out these events they're a part of!

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Here we are now, pregnant again with our son which we revealed Live on Facebook! We're due in August, we're now writing several blogs, social media influencers and launching a new business focusing on our main mission to support others and being advocates for UK surrogacy. It's no wonder we're shattered!

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Far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "B" category than any other. Here are three of their inspiring stories.

A couple months ago, Gays With Kids received the following message via one of our social media channels:

"Hey guys, love what you do. But where are your stories about bi men who are dads? Do they not exist? I get the sense from your page that most queer dads identify as gay. I identify as bi (or pansexual) and want to become a dad one day, but just never see my story represented. Are they just not out there?"We can say with resounding certainly that YES bisexual dads absolutely exist. In fact, of all the letters in our acronym, far more LGBTQ parents fall into the "b" category than any other.

But our reader is certainly right in one respect--we don't hear the stories of bisexual/pansexual dads told nearly often enough. While we occasionally find stories to tell about bi dads, like this great one from earlier this year from a dad who just came out, we otherwise aren't often finding stories of bi dads nearly as easy as we do gay dads. We're sure this is due to any number of reasons--societal pressure to stay closeted from both the straight and LGBTQ communities along with erasure of bisexuality both come to mind.

But it's also because we haven't done the best job reaching out specifically to the bi dad community! We hope to start changing that, starting by bringing you the stories of three bid dads in our community.

(Are you a bi dad? Click here so we can help tell your story and increase exposure for the bi dad community, or drop us a line at dads@gayswithkids.com!)

James Shoemaker, bisexual dad of three, in Alton Illinois

James Shoemaker, who is 65-years-old and lives in Alton, Illinois, says he's known he was bisexual since the age of five. Still he lived what he called a "happily socially heterosexual" life throughout his adolescence, until he had his first same-sex experience in college at the age of 18-years-old.

In his 20s, he began his first same-sex relationship with a man, which lasted about five years. But soon the conversation turned towards children. James wanted his own biological children, something that would have been difficult, particularly at the time, to achieve. He and his boyfriends split, and soon after James met the woman who would become his wife. Since he had previously been in a relationship with a man, and his friends and family were aware of his sexuality, there was no hiding his bisexuality from his wife. There was no hiding my bisexuality from her

"We were both in our 30's, and both wanted kids," James said. "Wo were both kind of desperate to find a partner and she expressed that."

He and his wife proceeded to have three daughters together and lived what he called a fairly "conventional" life. "There was so much societal support [for raising a family] within conventional marriage," he said. "This was new to me, since I came out at age 17, and was used to being "different".

Being in a relationship with a woman, James said, alienated him from much of the LGBTQ activism that began to take hold in the 1980s and 1990s. "I felt I could not act as a representative for gay rights while married to a woman and raising kids with her," he said.

When his youngest daughter turned 18, he and his wife split and, and James began, once again, to date other men. Eventually, he met Paul Mutphy, who he has been dating for four years. Since reentering the world dating another man, he's had to confront, at times, people's misconceptions about his bisexuality. "It's not just gay guys looking for more social acceptance," James said, noting that "Bi rights" has not really caught the public's attention in the same way as "gay rights".

Maxwell Hosford, bi trans dad of one, in Yakima Washington


Maxwell Hosford, who lives in Yakima, Washington, came out as bisexual when he was 13-years-old. "I was still questioning myself," he said "and the term bisexual seemed to fit me."

A year later, when he was 14, Maxwell also came out as trans. "I had heard about Chaz Bono on the radio one morning before school and it got me thinking," he said. "I realized that I wasn't the only one who felt that way and that there was a term for how I've felt."

Though people often conflate sexual orientation and gender identity, Maxwell stressed that he sees his identity as trans and bisexual as perfectly natural. "I see them interacting in a way of fluidity," he said. "Not straight but not gay. Just a feeling of love."

Maxwell described his path to parenthood as a bit of an accident. "I was on testosterone for two years but had a four-week break because i was switching doctors," he said. During that break, Maxwell ended up getting pregnant, and wasn't aware of the pregnancy for several months after. "I just thought my body was just being weird from starting T again," he said. Once he took the test and saw the two pink lines, though he knew his life was about to change forever. He went to Planned Parenthood the very next day.

Being pregnant while trans, Maxwell said, was an incredible experience. "I was comfortable enough with my gender identity that I didn't have very much dysphoria," he said, though he noted he did face a lot of misgendering from strangers. "But I understood that because I did have a big ole pregnant belly," he said. He was grateful for his medical team who all referred to him according to the correct pronouns.

Soon after, his son Harrison was born. As soon as he held him in his arms, Maxwell said the entire process was worth it. "All the misgendering, all the questions and people misunderstanding doesn't matter once you have that baby in your arms nothing matters but that little bundle of joy."

Three years ago, Maxwell met his current fiancé, Chase Heiserman, via a gay dating app, and the three now live together as a family. He says he couldn't be happier, but he does face some difficulty as a bi trans man within his broader community. "In some peoples eyes my fiancé and I are a straight couple because I'm trans and he's cisgender," he said. Some of the difficulty has even stemmed from other trans men. "I've had some bad comments from other transmen regarding my pregnancy and how it doesn't make me trans," he said, noting he continues to fight the perception that he is not "trans enough" because he chose to carry his own baby.

Through it all, though, Maxwell says becoming a father has been the biggest blessing in his life. "Being able to carry my baby and bond through those nine months was amazing," he said. "I'm breastfeeding, which is hard as I'm trans, and so I'm self conscious of my large breasts now but it's such a bonding experience that it doesn't matter when I see the look of love and the comfort he gets from it."

For other gay, bi and trans men considering fatherhood, Maxwell has this simple piece of advice: "Go for it."

Michael MacDonald, bi dad of two, in Monterery California 

Michael MacDonald, who is 28-years-old and living in Monterey California, says he came out as bisexual over two years ago. He has two daughters, who are four and two-and-a-half years old, that were born while he was married to his ex-wife. "My children are amazing," he said. "They have been so incredibly strong and brave having mom in one house and dad in another."

Both children were fairly young when Michael and his ex separated, so "they didn't really break a deeply ingrained idea of what a family unit is like. They have always just sort of known that mom and dad don't live together."

Co-parenting isn't always easy, Michael said, noting it's "one of the hardest things in the world." He and his ex overcome any potential difficulty, though, by always putting the children first. "As long as they are happy, healthy and loved, that is all that matters," he said. "I'm so fortunate to have such an incredible/pain in the butt partner to help me raise these amazing little girls."

Though the separation was hard on all of them, Michael said it's also been an amazing experience watching his children's resiliency. "I am so proud of the beautiful little people they are," he said. "Their adaptability, courage and love is something really spectacular."

Since the separation, Michael hasn't been in a serious relationship, but he has dated both men and women, something he says has been "absolutely challenging. Not only does he need to overcome all the typical challenges of a newly divorced parent ("Do they like kids? Would they be a good stepparent?") but also the added stresses of being bisexual. "It can sometimes just be a bit too much for some women to handle," he said.

He has been intentional about making sure his children have known, from a young age, that "daddy likes girls and boys," he said. "They have grown up seeing me interact with people I've dated in a romantic way, like hand holding, abd expressing affection, so I think as they get older it's not something that will ever really seem foreign or different to them to see me with a man or woman," he said.

In his dates with other men, Michael says most guys tend to be surprised to learn that he has biological children. "But once I explain that I am bisexual, it's usually much more easily understood," he said. He is more irritated, though, when people question or outright refuse to recognize his bisexuality. "While I understand and have witnessed many guys who use bisexuality as a "stepping stone" of sorts when coming out," he said, it does not mean that "bisexuality is not real or valid."

As a bisexual dad, he also says he can feel isolated at times within the broader parenting community. "It can be a little intimidating feeling like you don't really belong to one side or another," he said. "There's this huge network of gay parents, and, of course straight parents. Being sort of in the middle can sometimes create a feeling of isolation"

The biggest misconception about bisexual dads who have split with their wives, he said, is that sexual orientation isn't always the reason for the separation. "When my ex wife and I separated, while my bisexuality did play a small part in it, it was not the reason we separated," he said. He added that while life might not be perfect, it's good. "My children are happy, healthy, and loved," he said. "That's really what matters the most."

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Mayor Pete Hopes His (Future) Kids Are "Puzzled" That Coming Out Was Ever Newsworthy

Mayor Pete and husband Chasten don't have any kids yet, but have talked openly and often about their hopes to be dads one day

Pete Buttigieg, who is making waves in the political world by competing to be the first openly gay and (at 37 years old) first Millennial President of the United States, currently doesn't have any children with husband Chasten. But it's clear from his public comments and writings that he and Chasten hope to become dads one day.

And when that day comes, Buttigieg says he hopes his kids will find it puzzling that coming out as gay was ever a newsworthy event. Back in 2015, well before he began his campaign for president, Buttigieg wrote an essay in the South Bend Tribune that said the following:

"Like most people, I would like to get married one day and eventually raise a family. I hope that when my children are old enough to understand politics, they will be puzzled that someone like me revealing he is gay was ever considered to be newsworthy. By then, all the relevant laws and court decisions will be seen as steps along the path to equality. But the true compass that will have guided us there will be the basic regard and concern that we have for one another as fellow human beings — based not on categories of politics, orientation, background, status or creed, but on our shared knowledge that the greatest thing any of us has to offer is love."

In the meantime, Pete and Chasten are kept plenty busy with their two fur babies, Truman and Buddy.


Fatherhood, the gay way

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