Sean wanted to become a foster dad, but didn’t want to wait for the white picket fence dream to come true. Inspired by his cousin, who had adopted as a single parent, he decided to start the process as a single parent.
He moved to New Jersey, bought his first home, and began the application to become a licensed foster parent all within the same year. It took another two years before he welcomed his first child. But when Sean finally became a foster parent two years later, in 2001, he was no longer single. (Unfortunately, that relationship didn’t work out.)
But a lot has changed since 2001. So far, he has fostered no fewer than eight kids. And Sean is in a successful, long-term relationship.
Karl (left) and Sean with baby Neo. (Photo credit: Kathleen Fox)
Six years ago, Sean met Karl online. On their first date they went geocaching (an outdoor activity to find treasures called geocaches by using a GPS device or mobile phone). Sean knew that Karl was someone special when he watched him skip through the woods “like a leprechaun.” “He was so happy to be in the woods,” remembers Sean. “It was a gorgeous day and we took pictures as well as geocached. It was his first time and I loved that he was down to try it.”
Karl has always thought becoming a gay dad was out of reach, but meeting Sean changed his mind. He came to believe that nothing was impossible if you really wanted it.
One of their foster kids, Neo, was available for adoption. On April 19, 2013, Sean and Karl became his forever dads.
Sean, Karl and Neo on adoption day!
Sean recalls the day: “There wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom as the judge spoke about the importance of family and having a support network that reaches far and wide. She looked out over the courtroom filled with our family and friends and said she was very happy to make Neo our son, because she could see that he would be surrounded by a loving and caring family. She was an amazing human being and that was a moment we’ll never forget.”
Eighteen months later, on October 24, 2014, Sean and Karl made their relationship official by tying the knot. They got their dream wedding celebration at the Jersey City Hyatt Regency by winning a contest celebrating marriage equality in New Jersey. (Sean and Karl will be forever grateful to the hotel for making their day perfect!) Neo as ring bearer stole the show as he walked down the aisle.
Karl (left) and Sean with Neo in Schooley’s Mountain Park in Long Valley, New Jersey, August 2014
Sean, who was born in the Bronx but grew up in Rockland and Orange Counties, New York, has had a very positive foster experience in New Jersey. That doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing: There have been some difficult situations, the most challenging (and longest) of which was the first placement.
In Sean’s mind, the best thing about being a foster parent is meeting new kids. “Getting them from being scared and quiet when they arrive to playful and rambunctious little ones that they need to be is the best part of being a foster parent,” explained Sean. “I love watching them improve from whatever their previous situation was and giving them new experiences and skills that they can take with them.”
Neo dressed as the Cowardly Lion, Halloween 2014
Sean and Karl have fostered kids from as brief a period as one weekend to two years. Typically the kids will stay with them for around six to eight months. They’ve fostered kids aged from 2 to 9 years; one outlier was a 14-year-old child who was placed with them specifically because she was deaf. As a child of deaf parents, Sean knows American Sign Language (ASL), and his and Karl’s home was the only licensed home in New Jersey that knew ASL. (Karl has also learned ASL so he can communicate with Sean’s mom.)
Dealing with behavior shifts and issues can be the most challenging aspect of being foster dads. Sean explains, “If their parents miss a visit, it’s devastating to them and hard to witness.”
2016: Karl with Neo on his shoulders and Sean (right)
Sean and Karl share how impressed they are with the New Jersey foster services. “The division in New Jersey has usually been a terrific advocate for the kids. It’s inspiring to see how hard they work to make sure kids are safe and cared for despite the pressures of budget cuts and other challenges they face,” acknowledges Sean.
Sean, a software developer, and Karl, a photographer and small business consultant, are open to the idea of extending their family, excited by the idea of giving Neo a sibling. We’ll keep in touch with this family to see what the future may hold.