Originally published Jan. 9, 2019
Fostering has changed the lives of many dads in the Gays With Kids community. Sometimes the outcome of fostering can be heartbreaking, and other times, it's been the most joyous and wonderful new beginning for our families. Oftentimes, it's both.
Although all the stories are different, one piece of advice we hear time and time again is this: remove your ego and put the children first. That's the one piece of advice foster-adopt dad, Robby Swagler, would give to anyone considering fostering.
Robby met his husband David Swagler, both 30 years old, when they were in college at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
They both loved kids and decided to become foster parents, inspired by the overwhelming number of children in the foster care system. They wanted to provide a loving home for a child in need.
In March 2015, a little over 3 years after they were married, they began the licensing process. It involved 6 weeks of pre-service classes, and a home study by an agency. That took another six months.
By March the following year, everything was in order and they were ready to begin fostering.
"The overall experience of getting licensed was wonderful!" shared Robby. "We had so much support from friends and family." And the other couples in the class were even more supportive. The dads-to-be formed strong bonds with three couples in particular, and they've since watched and supported one another go through each other's journey.
Two months after being licensed, Robby and David received their first placement: three-month-old twins, Joanna and Evan.
The next year and a half were an emotional rollercoaster for the foster dads. In foster care, a priority is always placed on family reunification, when possible, if it is in the best interest of the children. So Robby and David knew there was a high probability that the twins could be placed back with their biological parents.
"Throughout that year and a half we didn't have much control of the situation," explained David, "and a lot of our hope was placed in the faith of the system doing the right thing."
The twins' biological mother was understandably torn about her decision, but in the end, she decided to terminate her parental rights. But just as that happened, the biological father tried to get custody – Robby and David hadn't known who the biological father was until that moment.
After a very long and emotional day in court – for everyone – the judge granted the state custody, and the dads adopted Joanna and Evan right after their second birthday, in February 2018.
During this time, the dads also fostered another 9-month-old boy. They cared for him for 4 months before he was reunited with his grandmother. "That was very emotional as well. We were very bonded to him," said Robby.
Robby and David are very cognizant of being two white men raising African American twins. They were very selective, then, about daycare. Ultimately, they chose a culturally and racially diverse daycare that represented their family, and that would allow their twins to interact with other families like theirs.
"We have found it very easy to meet and interact with other interracial families through daycare and friends," explained Robby. "However, we've found it difficult to meet other gay men who have children. We live in a pretty rural area and haven't met many other gay couples."
As much as the dads would love to have the opportunity to find other gay dad families in the area, they are very happy to share that the relationship between the three foster-adoptive families Robby and David met when they began their fatherhood journey, has continued.
In July 2017, they all rented a house in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for a week. "All the kids had a wonderful time swimming and relaxing!" said Robby. "It's been very beneficial for us and the other parents to have friendships due to the fact we understand one another's families and how challenging the process can be."
As the twins neared their 3rd birthday, the dads nights were filled with bedtime stories and family routines. "My children have taught me to enjoy the little things in life again," said Robby.
And to all those thinking about fatherhood? "As a gay man, I've had many thoughts that having children would never happen. Stay focused on your goal of becoming a father and it will happen!"