Foster/Foster-Adopt

Three Couples Open Up About Their Foster-Adopt Experiences

May is National Foster Care Month, and to celebrate, we've spent the last few weeks bringing you stories of gay men whose families were forged through the foster care system

May is National Foster Care Month, and to celebrate, we've spent the last few weeks bringing you stories of gay men whose families were forged through the foster care system. Still, many prospective gay dads may be wondering: is foster care the right path for me?

Unfortunately, this is an extremely personal question, and one that ultimately only you can decide. But to help those wrestling with whether or not to pursue adopting through the foster care system, we decided to approach three gay couples with experience in the subject to get their take on some common questions.

First let's meet the dads:

Christopher and Patrick have two children, Isabella and Jordan. Isabella came to her dads at Halloween in 2003, and Jordan joined the family in 2007.

Thomas and Jonathan also have two children, Charlotte and Grace, who both came to them as newborns in 2015.

Charles and Joaquín have one son, Alex, who came to them in 2013, and whose adoption was finalized May 19, 2014.


#1: How long does it take to adopt from the foster care system?

For Isabella, our first child, we spent a good deal of time preparing, doing research, completing application paperwork and interviews, and doing the necessary training, so in all we spent about a year and a half in that part of the process, but that was our choice to take it slow. We waited about 5 months for a match; part of that was our decision, some times we were passed over for placements, and weeks went by when we were just waiting. Once our daughter was placed with us, it took 2 years for the adoption to be finalized. For Jordan, our second: We waited a bit longer for the placement, waiting on the list for about 8 months. After he was living with us, it took less than a year for finalization. -Christopher and Patrick

Charlotte our younger daughter was extremely fast based on how she came into care. Her adoption finalization occurred 9 months to the day of birth. Grace who had a bit more uncertainty around her plan, took 18 months. In both cases we were told this was fast. -Thomas and Jonathan

Around 11 months. -Charles and Joaquín

Charles (left), Joaquín (right) and Alex, 2017

#2: Which agency did you work with?

Amara in Seattle, Washington. -Christopher and Patrick

Baltimore City Department of Social Services, Maryland. -Thomas and Jonathan

The Kinship Center which is part of Seneca, California. -Charles and Joaquín

#3: How much does foster care cost?

For all three families, the cost ranged from $0 to $5000.00.

Costs were relatively low. With what the agency was charging, plus costs for training/certification, and lawyers fees it was around $5,000.00 (but this was 10-15 years ago, so I'm sure costs even with our agency have increased since then). -Christopher and Patrick

There was no cost, although some of the medical bills we used our own insurance, so we had co-pays to take care of. -Charles and Joaquín

Christopher (middle, left) and Patrick with Isabella and Jordan, 2017

#4: Does the state offset any financial costs of foster care?

Costs for many things were covered while the kids were in foster care prior to finalization. Since then, the state has continued to provide a monthly stipend of less than $1,000.00 per child, which we have used to cover the cost of doctor visits, counseling, and educational support. -Christopher and Patrick

The state offers a per diem based on the level of need of the child. There are also additional resources which are made available to foster children such as WIC, medicaid, clothing/emergency assistance and daycare vouchers. -Thomas and Jonathan

Yes. We receive a monthly stipend during foster care and then post-adoption. The stipend definitely helps and did allow us to send him to various camps and programs. -Charles and Joaquín

Jonathan (left) holding Charlotte, and Thomas (right) with Grace, 2017

#5: Can foster parents specify preferences about the child or children they are seeking to foster-adopt? If so, are you able to give us any examples?

Our agency had a whole list of conditions and characteristics, ranging from the child's race to a variety of medical conditions (including any/all known biological family medical conditions), to known exposure to drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. For each, the agency asked us to let them know if we would be willing to consider a child, would definitely not consider a child, or were unsure and might need more information about considering a child for each of the qualities/circumstances. It was an agonizing process. There was a lot we didn't know, and a lot we were just unsure about. Ultimately though it did help us think through what we would be able to handle. Costs for many things were covered while the kids were in foster care prior to finalization. Since then, the state has continued to provide a monthly stipend of less than $1,000.00 per child, which we have used to cover the cost of doctor visits, counseling, and educational support. -Christopher and Patrick

In our experience, you can specify to some extent, however you will likely have to still say no a lot. In our case medically fragile was something we were not prepared to undertake. We also stated that we did not want short-term placements. Even with those preferences stated, you still get a lot of calls for children who may stretch your limits. In addition, the long-term outcome may not be known, so to some extent you are taking a chance. -Thomas and Jonathan

Yes, and that is encouraged. We told them we wanted to adopt a boy or girl age 3 to 6. You can also specify which type of developmental issues you are not comfortable with. -Charles and Joaquín

Joaquín, Charles and Alex

#6: Are you able to find out why your child was in the custody of human services?

Yes. Absolutely. We would not have considered adopting if we didn't know this information. We were able to review extensive case files of each child and court documents related to the placement in foster care as well as the movement to adoption. -Christopher and Patrick

Yes, we knew everything (available to the agency). Some we learned over time. -Thomas and Jonathan

We did early on in the process. -Charles and Joaquín

#7: Did you find out about the child's health before fostering? Was it accurate?

This is a bit difficult to answer. Isabella was 2-1/2 months when she came to us, and we had access to all medical records from the time of her birth. Jordan was 16 months, and we had access to his medical records as well. One concern for both children was pre-natal exposure to drugs and alcohol. Both were screened for physical characteristics of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and both screened negative. Within the last 10 years, as research has continued and doctors have gotten more specific about the long-term physical, developmental and behavioral affects of alcohol on individuals, the terminology has changed. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the new umbrella term under which a variety of specific diagnosis exist. With further testing and evaluation, Jordan was diagnosed under the category: Neurobehavioral Disorder/Alcohol Exposed. The good news is that this more specific diagnosis has meant that we can get the targeted medical and behavioral support that Jordan needs. -Christopher and Patrick

Since both of our children were newborn, we had to go on the medical advice of the placement worker. For the most part the information was accurate. -Thomas and Jonathan

We received a lot of medical information early on. It was accurate, although by the time he moved in one of the medical issues had already been resolved. -Charles and Joaquín

Jonathan holding Charlotte (left) and Thomas holding Grace (right)

#8: Are there support groups for foster parents, and if so, did you attend any and find them beneficial?

Our agency tried to coordinate a few support groups, but we never found any that helpful. We ended up creating our own gay dads support group, that has taken different forms and filled different needs over the years. -Christopher and Patrick

There were opportunities to meet with other parents, but we found ourselves so busy with two babies, we rarely attended. -Thomas and Jonathan

There are many support groups both online and in person. We did attend a local one through our agency and ended up becoming fiends with several families. -Charles and Joaquín

#9: How did you find your local foster care agency/organization?

We found our adoption agency very easily: at the time, they were really the only agency in the area that was working with same-sex couples. Yes, in the early 2000s. In Seattle. Crazy, but true. -Christopher and Patrick

Our neighbor and his husband shared their story with us, and directed us the City. -Thomas and Jonathan

It was recommended to us by our local county agency. -Charles and Joaquín

Christopher (left) and Patrick with Isabella and Jordan

#10: How long did it take you to become a licensed foster parent and what was the training like?

At that time, the training was 40 hours, spread out over 4 Saturdays. It was long, excruciatingly dull and boring, and as gay men we definitely stood out. Since then, I believe the state training has been streamlined. And, from what I've heard, there are many more gay men (and women) in the room. -Christopher and Patrick

It took us about 4 months to become licensed. Training was 8 2-hour trainings, which unfortunately in a large city like Baltimore was filed with people who were not there to take it seriously. A lot of the training material is common sense, but does open your eyes to potential situations that you may not be aware of. -Thomas and Jonathan

That took awhile. We did 9 weeks of classes (3 hours once a week) and then had background investigations plus a lot of paperwork to fill out. The entire process took around 6 months. -Charles and Joaquín

#11: Please tell us about your home study experience.

We (mostly) loved it. We were each asked to answer a set of questions in writing, and were told to expect that our answers would run about 10 pages in length total. That was accurate. Some people hate this aspect, and resisted the intrusion. As a writer, I loved it, and appreciated the time to consider my desire to be a parent, my own experiences as a child, and my hopes and fears for what it would be like to parent. We were each interviewed individually and then together. A case worker visited our home for an inspection, which of course we passed with flying colors! I admit that at times we both harbored resentment, especially as it related to our sexual orientation. Why did we as gay men who wanted kids need to have our lives looked into so deeply, when a straight couple could just have sex and it was done? But of course the part of fostering a child was the same for all individuals or couples, regardless of sexual orientation. And we both remarked that we came through the process thinking that everyone who wants to parent should have to go through such an intense, soul-searching, collaborative (if you're partnered) process. It helped us become better parents. -Christopher and Patrick

Since we started the process of adoption with a private agency, we had been through the home study process before. Unfortunately none of our existing home study could be used. Most of the time was waiting for inspections by local agencies. -Thomas and Jonathan

It was lengthy, however we both understood the reason they were asking so many questions and requesting so much information. We found that by doing a little every day, we were able to get through it. -Charles and Joaquín

Alex with his dads, Charles and Joaquin

#12: How did you ensure that your agency was gay friendly and had a good track record of placing kids with gay dad families?

They were the only game in town. We asked tons and tons of questions. They were--and continue to be--fierce advocates for our community. Not always perfect, but certainly invested and continuing to do all they can to reach out, advocate, and support. -Christopher and Patrick

For us, since we knew our neighbors were successful, it was worth a shot. Plus the City of Baltimore has a non-discrimination policy includes sexual orientation. On a side note, the City is still actively seeking homes for LGBT teens, something we were not prepared to do. -Thomas and Jonathan

We asked right away. We were told it was not an issue. -Charles and Joaquín

Many thanks to these families for giving us an invaluable look into adopting through the foster care system in the United States!


Read more:

12 Questions Answered by a Foster-Adopt Expert

Path to Gay Fatherhood: The Foster Dad

Faces of Gay Dad Foster-Adopt Families

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'Our Family is Complete': Congrats to Gay Dads on Their Recent Births and Adoptions!

Join us in congratulating all of the gay men in our community whose families grew recently!

Wishing all of these gay dads congratulations on their exciting news this month. From becoming first-time dads to finalizing adoptions, congrats to everyone in our community on their wonderful news!

Circle Surrogacy is the proud sponsor of this month's congrats post. They were founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. "For over 20 years we've helped LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!"

Congratulations to Andrew and Edward on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

For Andrew and Edward, their foster parent training plus home study took about a year. "We had a brief placement of twin girls that were four years old two months after we had been approved," said Andrew. "Then we took a break as it was a difficult process, the 'loss' aspect, when that placement ended."

Then on March 15, 2017, their case worker sent them information about two little babies - a boy and a girl - that were still in the NICU and only nine days old. "It was a foster case with an uncertain future, but we decided those little babies needed us!" They dads took a leap of faith and on July 10 this year, their twins' adoptions were finalized. Andrew and Edward have a wonderful bond with the paternal grandmother as well as a special relationship with the twins' father. "We all love these twins, and the more love they have the better their lives will be."

"Adoption is one of those experiences where one side experiences incredible joy while the other side experiences incredible loss," continued Andrew. "We are grateful to experience this joy knowing that biological family members are happy for us to experience that joy."

Congratulations to this Mt Airy, Philadelphia, forever family of four!

Congratulations to Sean and Thomas on finalizing the adoptions of their twins!

Together 15 years, London couple Sean and Thomas recently finalized the adoption of their twins.

"About 3 years ago we started meeting adoption agencies and were approved as prospective adopters the following spring," shared Thomas. "We were anticipating a long wait, but quite quickly were matched with our twins. At the time they were nearly five."

After a fairly long transition period for everyone to get settled in, the adoption was formalized the day after Father's Day. "Two years after matching, at times it seems like the kids have been with us forever and other times a blink of an eye. But it is certainly the most life-changing, transformative experience and we cannot imagine life without them. It's wonderful that our family is now official!"

Congratulations to Phillip and Clinton on the birth of their daughter Madison!

Little Madison joined her dads on July 1, 2019, after coming into the world via surrogate.

"I caught Madison as she was born," said Phillip. "I have never felt such an exhilarating rush in my entire life! We were genuinely in love at first sight!"

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These new dads and the apple of their eye live in Texas.

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Congratulations to Adam and Josh on finalizing the adoption of their daughter!

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"For an event that always seemed like it would be the end of our adoption journey, Baby K's Finalization Day felt more like the beginning of a greater adventure," shared Adam. "Since day one, Baby K was always loved and 100% part of our family, but we are so filled with joy to see this day come and make it officially official. We cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives not only watching Baby K grow and develop, but also to see the two of us learn and grow in this new role as parents."

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Congrats to the Danish family!

This post is sponsored by Circle Surrogacy

Circle was founded in 1995 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to be a parent. To this day, that belief is at the core of everything we do. For over 20 years we've helped straight and LGBTQ+ couples and singles around the world fulfill their dreams of parenthood. We've helped bring more than 1,900 babies into this world... and counting!

We're an agency comprised of social workers and lawyers, accountants and outreach associates, and program managers and coordinators; but, more importantly, we're an agency made up of parents, surrogates and egg donors, who are passionate about helping people build their families, and invested in each and every journey.

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News

Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

"This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

"I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

"I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

"Rollercoaster and Sons," Explores the Journey of One Single Gay Dad Through the Foster-Adopt System

When it comes to the foster-adopt system, "there is no roadmap," said single gay dad Chase Turner

Guest post written by Chase Turner

Many of us thought long and hard about what avenues were best to pursue being a dad. For me, fostering to adoption was the selected road. There is no roadmap here, many things that came my way were learned by doing. Along the way, I started wishing I had a better support group or people who could understand what it's like to be gay and attempting to adopt. Often we (people who are LGBT) feel scrutinized and judged for choices that the majority makes but for us there is pushback. Once my adoption was complete, I felt it was necessary that I put pen to paper and write this story, from a gay male perspective.

My goal was to provide a voice in the space of foster care and adoption where there is a void. Additionally, I wanted to provide an authentic look at all facets of the process, from the kids, to the obstacles and challenges that happened within my personal life. I do hope you enjoy and more importantly can relate or prepare yourself for a similar journey.

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First, there was Roy and Silo — the two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that served as inspiration for the famous children's book And Tango Makes Three. Then Magin Sphen got together in Sydney, where aquarium keepers gave the cocks (Calm down, that's what a male penguin is called!) a foster egg to care for.

And now, please welcome Skipper and Ping in Berlin to the latest list of gay dad penguins! As soon as the two emperor penguins arrived at the city's zoo, they set about trying to start a family, said Berlin Zoo spokesman Maximilian Jaege to DPA news.

"They kept trying to hatch fish and stones," Jaeger said.

So the zookeepers loaned the penguins an egg from a female penguin, who is apparently uninterested in hatching eggs on her own, according to the BBC.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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