TOP - Dad Life

Saved By a Gay Angel: The Story of the Gay Uncle Who Rescued His Sister’s Neglected Kids

Five years ago, when Robert Shutts (see photo above, top right) arrived at the Ohio home where his sister and her kids were staying, he entered the room to find chaos. His sister was intoxicated and incoherent, her three toddlers unattended.


“It was a horrible sight to see," he recalls. “My sister was just laying on the bed, puking her guts out. Two of the kids had no pants on, no diapers. It was filthy."

He'd received the call because her temporary hosts planned to notify Child Protective Services of the situation but thought to call him first.

It was a familiar story to Robert: he and his sister had been removed from their home as children and later adopted by family members. Perhaps for that reason, he'd been in denial about the severity of his sister's problem.

Robert was studying to become a medical assistant and his sister lived near his school. He often stopped by to see her and his nieces and nephews after class. He would notice the needle marks on her arms, but she would persuade him that she was done and seeking help.

Now, it was clear she was not fit to care for her children.

Robert felt obligated to help despite his heavy load at school. What's more, he was eager for more connection with family, having lost contact with the remainder of his family after coming out in his teens.

“These kids are actually all that I have left. My family doesn't care about me," he says. “When I came out to them and told them I was gay, they didn't want anything to do with me."

Fearful of someone contacting authorities, Robert's sister agreed to let Robert care for her children. “She knew she was on the edge of losing everything," he says.

Suddenly, the 25-year-old student was dad to three boys, Preston, Aiden and Isaac. He became their foster parent to pave the way for adoption. With three kids under five years old, Robert graduated with honors.

In 2012, two years after discovering his sister and her children in squalor, Robert received a phone call from her out of the blue.

“My sister got a hold of me to inform me that she was in rehab and she was doing a really good job and she wanted to see her kids," he says. Though he'd had every intention of adopting the kids, Robert made the heart-wrenching decision to give her a second chance at parenting as soon as she was ready.

She wasn't. “She relapsed the minute she got out of rehab," he says.

Soon, though, she contacted him again — this time, pregnant and serious about getting clean. She moved into the home where he lived with the children. “She was going through withdrawals," he says. “I had to take her to a special clinic to get methadone to wean her off heroin."

She finally achieved sobriety and Robert followed through on his resolution to return the kids to her care. Still, he provided for them as much as possible, renting and furnishing a home for them.

Suddenly childless, Robert felt lost. “I was starting to have a crisis myself — I didn't know what I was doing with myself," he recalls. So he moved to Texas.

He was making plans to move to Hawaii with a friend just six months later when he took a quick trip back to Ohio to meet his newborn niece, Payton, his sister's fourth child.

“I drove all the way up to Ohio in April of 2013 to knock on the door, and discovered that my sister was really still on drugs."

This time Child Protective Services was already involved. Robert was faced with a decision: reclaim custody of his sister's kids or see them enter the foster care system. Relinquishing dreams of living his remaining twenties in Hawaii, Robert once again became a dad — this time to four kids instead of three.

Tight on money, he and the children entered a homeless shelter until he could find work — his externship after school offered him a position — and find a new home for himself and the kids.

“Finally I got me a nice place and met me a nice gentleman," he jokes, but his relief after such tumultuous years is palpable. “I'm amazed, to be honest. When I met him, I didn't think he was going to be so interested in being a family man."

Robert and his gentleman Matthew recently bought a house together and co-parent their four kids, now aged 3, 6, 7 and 10.

“I have people telling me I've been really busy and they have no clue," he laughs. “They think I've been really busy in the bedroom department."

Robert Shutts (l) and his partner Matthew with their four children

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TOP - Dad Life

Famous Gay Dads and Their Kids!

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Editor's Note: Below is an essay by Jay Bostick who eloquently lays out many of the reasons why he and many other readers were upset by a post we ran yesterday by Kevin Saunders titled, "Why This Adopted Gay Man Will Never Have Children." This post clearly touched a nerve! (Check out the ongoing discussion on our Facebook page.) While some of our readers appreciated Saunders' viewpoint, many others felt slighted by his reasoning for not having children, calling him everything from "self-involved," "selfish," and an "insufferable narcissist." Many other readers rightly questioned why Gays With Kids would even run an essay from a man who does not want children on (of all place) a parenting website.

The former point is a matter of opinion, but I'll offer some clarification on the latter. We agreed to run this post for two reasons. First, Saunders' perspective is unique among many adopted gay men. We have run countless essays on this site featuring adopted gay men who, inspired by their own upbringing, decided to give back by opening up their homes to children who need them. Saunders' experience, however, led him to conscience decision not to have children, a perspective worthy of discussion particularly by anyone who has been touched by adoption in some way. Secondly, as a 52-year-old gay man, Saunders is starting to find himself alienated from many in his LGBTQ peer group for his decision not to have kids. Again, we are so much more familiar with the opposite perspective on our page: when they become parents, many gay men find themselves ostracized from the broader, childless LGBTQ community. That the inverse is also starting to become true is a testament to the increase in LGBTQ parents in the United States, and an interesting dichotomy we believed warranted further exploration.

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Guest post written by Kevin Saunders.

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Gays WITHOUT Kids (If Just For a Day...)

Andrew Kohn explains why he decided to leave his kids at home this Pride

I'm not a monster. Yes, I saw the wagons carrying lovely toddler children waiving their flags and eating their graham crackers. The children were plentiful wearing their Pride family shirts, bejeweled in rainbow. The weather was perfect and the crowds were as prideful as ever. But my husband and I had a day where we didn't have to worry about someone else, not on the constant lookout for the next available bathroom or calming emotions because we could buy one unicorn costume and not every unicorn costume. We had a day without kids.

Yes, Pride has become commercialized. Some companies want my gay money, but others march and have a presence because one gay voice spoke up and asked why the company hasn't marched. I marched in the parade with my employer – who marched for the first time this year – because I started the conversation about why we hadn't marched before. My husband and I were present. We honored Stonewall. And praised Nina West. And we did it without carrying a bag with extra panties and a couple sippy cups.

Believe me, I get sharing the day with your children. With your family. But in my house, we live Pride every day. Two white dads caring for two black kids makes us walking billboards for equality, love, and acceptance. I don't need a day to celebrate my family with my children. We do it in the grocery store. We do it at preschool. We recognize our uniqueness and celebrate it. My children don't need a meltdown and a long walk to tell them about their history and their fathers' connection to the past.

Instead of worrying about where we would find lunch and, again, where the closest bathroom was, I saw beauty that took me by surprise – and I was able to be in the moment with it. Trans men waking boldly and bravely around only wearing only their bindings. Watching high school kids sitting in the grass, wearing crop tops and eating french fries, literally carefree looking up at the clouds. We experienced a community that was free and uninhibited, if just for one afternoon, where who you are isn't odd or something to be hidden. But rather something that is a definition of you and should be your reality 365 days a year.

I know that being gay and having kids can be overwhelming at times. We ask ourselves if we're representing our community adequately (or have we become too heteronormative?). If we have children of a different race, are we giving them the experiences they need to know who they are, as well as navigate that world with gay parents? Are we so embraced at school functions because of our contributions to community or are we a token family? And yes, I'll ask it, are we good enough for acceptance by all gay families, who as if we're single again, judge each other on wealth, looks, and status? No family is better than any other, and gay parents certainly have opportunities to be better towards one another.

Our Pride ended in a small fight while walking to the car, like all good Pride's should. But it wasn't about kids bickering, or kids getting upset they didn't get the right treat. It was about us centering ourselves in a community that isn't exactly welcoming in certain spaces to gay families other times of the year. It was about us catching up with our past while also seeing our collective future.

And the kids didn't seem to mind. They had fun with a babysitter and lived their Pride out loud when they shopped for daddy and papa gifts for Father's Day. That's our Pride. Maybe when the kids are older, and really get the meaning of Pride, we'll start marching together in solidarity. But for right now, daddies needed a little time alone to reconnect with their LGBT family. And while there may be too many beer ads and not enough voter registration tables, we celebrate visibility and love. And my husband and I had time together, reminding us of who we are, who our original family was, and how we will connect who we are now, and our children, with that family as it grows.

At the end of the day, we're all in it together. And my children will be enriched by the experience. Just not this year. This year, we fertilized our roots so that our branches can grow.

Antwon and Nate became dads through the foster care system. Nine months after becoming licensed, they received a call on a Tuesday, and two days later, their daughter moved in. "It was very quick," said Nate. "Honestly, it was more just shock and nervousness for me."

As new parents, Nate took unpaid leave for two weeks, before going back to work part-time. Antwon didn't receive any leave.

"It's definitely important to have time off to bond, but it's also important to be financially stable when you do it," said Antwon. "I don't think you should have to choose between staying financially afloat or showing your kid love... and I don't think anyone should have to make that choice."

Only 15% of dads in the U.S. have access to paid paternity leave. We want to change this.

Watch Nate and Antwon's video to find out how:

Sign the pledge: www.dovemencare.com/pledge

Like Antwon and Nate, we're helping Dove Men+Care advocate for paid paternity leave for *ALL* dads! Over the next three months, we will be sharing stories of gay dad families and their paternity leave experience. Our goal is to get 100,000 folks to sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Dove Men+Care has collected over 30,000 signatures on the Pledge for Paternity Leave in three short months, in a mission to champion and support new legislation for federally mandated paid leave laws in the U.S. With the conversation growing on Capitol Hill, Dove Men+Care will target key legislators to drive urgency behind paid paternity leave policy and provide a social proof in the form of real dad testimonials, expert research and signature support from families across the country.

Our goal is to help Dove Men+Care bring 100,000 signatures to key policymakers in Washington, D.C. for their Day of Action on the Hill, and drive urgency behind this issue.

If you believe *ALL* dads should receive paid paternity leave, sign the Paternity Leave Pledge.

Fatherhood, the gay way

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