"We've learned that a two year old is by far the hardest person to negotiate with successfully," said new adoptive dad LJay Ramirez, speaking about his daughter. "A six year old has so many questions that anyone would see as common sense but he genuinely is curious about the world he lives in."
Bay area dads, LJay and his husband Matt Ramirez, finalized the adoption of their 2-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son on January 5, 2019. They describe their parenthood journey so far as "crazy, fun, and exciting." They became dads through the foster care system, something LJay always wanted to do since having first-hand experience when he was placed in foster care as a young teenager.
The new dads lives have changed tremendously since becoming dads, and now they have want to share their story with others.
LJay and Matt met over eight years ago at a JCPennys. LJay was shopping with his nephew and Matt was working at the counter. When LJay's nephew spilt his juice all over the counter, LJay became very flustered and kept apologizing whilst trying to clean the mess. Matt insisted that it was okay but found LJay's response so endearing that he kept chatting with him. That was the beginning of something very special.
On October 13, 2013, LJay and Matt got married in front of their loved ones. It was almost another 5 years before they began their journey to fatherhood.
Matt and LJay always wanted kids, and they chose to foster because of LJay's own experience. At 8 years old, LJay was placed in foster care and moved from home to home because he was unwell. The continuous moving and instability took a toll on his young soul. "After moving from home to home, I was placed in a group home where one of the employees finally took me in," said LJay. When he moved to his last placement, LJay was able to do better in school and even graduated a year early! "Foster care can be a lonely experience, but when you find a loving family it's amazing what it can do for your self esteem."
It took five months for the husbands to become licensed foster parents due in part to their conflicting work schedules – LJay travels a lot for his job, and Matt works Monday to Friday – and when they eventually became licensed, there was a moment when a potential placement was going to fall through due to their living space. (They had found out in October there were two biological siblings who needed a home.) "Due to the age of our kids we had less than 14 days to move into a three bedroom or run the risk of the placement being delayed," explained LJay. "Thanks to Matthew's job, we were able to get into a larger living space with no changes to our address and minor moving details."
In December last year, the new dads welcomed a 6-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl into their home. Pretty quickly, LJay and Matt established routines for everyone to aid in a smooth transition. "We are constantly reminding the kids that we are grateful for them to be with us and that we love them very much," said Matt. "There were some difficult times but we did not let that deter the fact that we love them and love that they are with us."
On January 5, 2019, their children's adoptions were finalized.
As the children are Hispanic and so is Matt, the family are constantly visiting Matt's parents who provide education and understanding of their heritage and culture to the kids. "We were able to introduce them to Mexican traditions during the holidays and how family is important," said Matt. "It really helped to explain the meaning and traditions in the movie Coco, which is the kids' favorite movie, and how it is celebrated in our family."
LJay and Matt have some advice to others considering fostering and adoption: Ask lots of questions! "It is important to ask questions because adoption is so much more than getting to know kids," elaborated LJay. "Knowing what the kids have been through and who they have been with is important to help make proper changes in your home to be welcoming to the kids." LJay stressed that it's imperative parents-to-be that they know all they can about the children's medical history and mental status. "This information will help make sure you know what to say and what not to say to prevent the kids from reliving any traumatic experience which could cause behavioral issues."
LJay also added that asking questions to understand the process and responsibility of the foster / adoptive parents is crucial, too. "Kids in the adoption system need stability and love, and if the adoptive parents aren't ready to provide that, it will certainly show in their parenting by being impatient and irritated. Kids in the system have enough to deal with and when they feel their parents don't want them or mistreat them… No child deserves that."
Through their own questioning, LJay and Matt made sure they were ready to take on the world on behalf of their future kids. They spoke with family, friends and professionals to ensure that they were making the right decision, and they feel confident in their decisions. "It's so rewarding to complete this process," said LJay. "If you can find it in your heart adopt, there are so many kids in the foster care system that need loving homes."