Gay Dad Family Stories

Their Hearts Were Stolen First, Say These Foster Dads; Then Their Last Names

Foster dads Santiago Gutierrez and Cesar Espinoza have opened up their homes, and hearts, to a sibling group of two

Santiago Gutierrez, a 29-year-old digital moderator, and Cesar Espinoza, a 38-year-old technician, met 10 years ago while Santiago was working as a server at a restaurant. Cesar was there dining with friends, and even from afar, he was immediately taken by Santiago. He found out through another waiter that Santiago was single, so he left his name and number on a napkin, and a couple of days later Santiago texted him. After some back and forth, they met up for their first date. This past May 1, 2018, they were married.

Kids were always part of the plan for this San Antonio couple but an opportunity to become dads came into view a little earlier than planned. At the end of 2015, they found out that an acquaintance was pregnant, but did not want to be a parent. They raised the prospect of taking on that responsibility. "We were living a comfortable life and we wanted to share that with kids and provide happiness and love," said Santiago.


Time passed and they never heard anything, after their initial inquiry. They knew the little boy had been born on January 26, 2016. Later, they found out later that he had been born testing positive of heroin. In April, they received a call from Child Protection Services (CPS) asking if they were interested in caring for the little boy, named Zachariah. Without a moment's hesitation, they said yes. They began fostering Zachariah at the end of April.

The dads watched their son closely for any lingering signs of affects from the heroin. "We had him tested for his cognitive and development and he passed." He was a very healthy and active little boy. "Today, he's three years old and he knows his primary colors, alphabet, and his numbers one through 15 in English and Spanish," shared Cesar proudly.

During this time caring for Zachariah, Santiago and Cesar were terrified of losing their son. CPS's goal is always to reunify children with their biological families, when possible, and Zachariah's birth father was fighting to have his son in his care. But the biological father wasn't able to comply with the court's requirements. Santiago and Cesar also made a strong case to Zachariah's caseworker, showing their commitment to their son and their extensive support network.

On March 28, 2018, Zachariah's adoption was finalized and he officially became part of their family, legally. The adoption sign the dads created for their son read, "I stole their hearts, now I'm stealing their last name!"

But their family wasn't done growing.

On October 13 of the same year, Zachariah's biological mom gave birth to a baby girl called Mariana. "We didn't know the mom was pregnant again until we got a call from the grandma," said Cesar. The husbands immediately went to visit their son's sister and found out she, too, was born testing positive for heroin, but thankfully without any signs of withdrawal.

With the biological grandmother already caring for four of her daughter's kids, she was unable to look after Mariana, so the dads quickly stepped in to foster her through a kinship arrangement. They will continue to foster Mariana for a year to give her mother a chance to met the requirements set by the law. If after a year, this hasn't happened, the birth mom's rights will be terminated and the dads plan to enthusiastically and lovingly adopt Mariana.

"We are considered family since we have the siblings so at the point, so if the mom has more kids we get the call," said Santiago.

As of February 2019, Mariana is a healthy almost 5-month-old baby who is very alert and active, and the dads are now licensed foster parents and plan to continue growing their family. "Anything we can do to help out these kids that deserve love and attention," said Santiago.

We look forward to watching this family grow.

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Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read the entire series here.

I decided pretty early in my process that I wanted siblings, preferably boys. Siblings, because I figured that being adopted by a single gay guy might bring up plenty of stuff, so at least the kids would have each other to share the experience with. Also, a sibling set gave each kid a built-in playmate who—to the relief of both of us—would not always need to be me. Boys, because I was thinking ahead to puberty. I know my limits, and the idea of dealing with a teenage girl—or, worse, girls—made my hair stand on end and skin break out in a cold sweat. At least with boys, I could rely on the fact that I had once been a teenage boy. Which was basically a five-year nightmare—so if nothing else, it gave me a baseline for how to help my kids have an opposite-of-dad experience.

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To say June 2018 was a big month for Travis and Jay would be an understatement. They became first-time dads to four-day-old Kathan, and solidified their union with marriage. When the wedding part was over, the new dads were able to focus all their attention on their new family. It had been almost 18 months since they began the process of becoming foster parents till they were matched, and while they were waiting, they began to get anxious.

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We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about becoming a foster dad — and Amara's Foster Care Services Supervisor Trey Rabun responded.

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Erik Alexander writes about a personal moment of happiness — the birth of his son — amid a world gripped by the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 has shaken the whole world to its core. From one part of the globe to the other, it has all but stopped life as we know it. This scenario seems all too reminiscent of something that the American South will never forget. Living in New Orleans, Louisiana we are accustomed to dealing with evacuations and disasters because of hurricane season each year. From June to November, we are on alert. As you can imagine, Hurricane Katrina's lasting effects really taught us how to deal with disaster prep along with recovering from the aftermath.

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Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


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Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

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