We Gained a Son Through Foster Care — He Didn't Lose his Family
Foster-adopt expert Trey Rabun writes a moving essay about his own experiences as a parent in the foster care system.
My husband, Phil, and I talked about having children since out first date over 11 years ago. Like many other gay dads, we waited to start the journey to become parents until we felt secure with our careers, finances, and home life. This meant we didn't start the partnering journey until 2016 when we were eight years into our relationship.
When we first met, I was completing my graduate studies in social work and subsequently started a career working in foster care and adoption. This made our decision to pursue foster care-adoption as our path to parenthood a fairly easy one. In fact, I can't recall us discussing other avenues to parenthood, but I'm sure we briefly discussed them before solidifying our decision to become foster parents.
We submitted the application to become foster parents around Christmas 2015 and were officially licensed in early 2016. We got licensed quicker than anticipated, so we went on hold to finish getting our lives ready for a child and to take our baby-moon trip to Europe!
We started to receive placement calls and e-mails in June 2016, and in July 2016 we were placed with a cute 15-month boy. After experiencing the crazy ride that is foster care, he would eventually become our forever son. I was planning to take three months of parent leave and Phil was going to take a few weeks off, but just as we were getting into our groove we got a call ten days into placement telling us the court ordered a move to a relative and that a social worker would be coming to our house in a few hours to pick him up. We were devastated and heartbroken…we had no idea you could fall in love with a child so quickly!! However, we knew that it was in Reggie's best interest to live with family and a relative he had lived with prior to us.
A few months later we ended up taking placement of 4-month-old baby who was with us for three months, before going back home to his parents. We knew early on this baby would be going back home, which made it a bit easier to plan for emotionally, but once again we were very sad to see him go after three months. However, we were able to get to know his parents and knew he was going back to a good situation, and we were genuinely happy for them. His parents even offered to write a reference for us when we did end up adopting, which was very touching and humbling.
We took a few months off from fostering to heal from having two sweet, little ones leave our home and had our trip to Palm Springs all booked when we received a call asking if we were interested in having Reggie return to our home. We immediately cancelled our trip and began preparing our home to welcome back the now-almost-two year old. This time, he was considered a long-term placement, and we quickly became the identified pre-adopt home if the state was unable to return him to his to parent(s), or find a relative interested in being an adoptive home.
Our son has Native American heritage so the Indian Child Welfare Act applied, which meant his tribe was continually seeking to find a tribal placement, but they ultimately couldn't find a viable home. After several conversations and an agreement with the tribe that we could keep our son connected to his culture, the tribal elders voted to approve us as the adoptive home for our child! This was yet another humbling moment in the journey.
It took about a year from the time parental rights were terminated until we finalized the adoption in June, 2019 of a now 4-year-old boy! The adoption occurred the Friday of Seattle's Pride which made for a fun weekend to celebrate family 😊 We have thoroughly enjoyed our almost three years of getting to love on Reggie. He is the silliest, kindest, and brightest kid in the world and we are truly lucky the universe brought us together! We look forward to a lifetime of guiding this awesome little person into adulthood and beyond.
It's no surprise that it was our goal to eventually adopt. But, we also became foster parents to help children return home and tried to keep this spirit at the center of what we did. Even though Reggie had very limited contact with his birth parents while in foster care, this spirit meant doing what we could to keep him connected to extended family members. Over the past few years we've gotten to know his grandma, aunts and cousins and we're proud to call them part of our family now, and vice versa. We've also recently met his birth dad and look forward to getting to know him over the years to come. And just because we get the honor of gaining a child, it doesn't mean little man has to lose his family. I'm sure it won't always be a smooth ride navigating these relationships, but it's worth it for Reggie to have these relationships and know his whole story. We hope to connect with maternal relatives at some point too. We take the responsibility very seriously to keep Reggie connected to his Native American heritage and plan to visit his the side of his family who lives out of state near the tribe's reservation.
Our biggest advice to other gay dads considering foster-to-adopt is to be patient and to focus on being there for children in the moment and not solely focus on the end goal of adoption. Between the paperwork and home study process, and potentially having multiple children placed in your home before adopting, the process can be very lengthy! It also comes with lots of ups and downs, but the ups far outweigh the downs. Having a child placed in your home and then reunify with family is one of the emotionally hardest things to experience, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and it ultimately brings you closer to your partner. We take great pride and fulfillment knowing we were able to support a family who is struggling and this feeling helps you get through the many unknowns as you wait to see what the permanency outcome will be for the child in your home!
We are keeping our foster license open, but taking a break from any placements through the end of year to enjoy our current family dynamic and figure out what future fostering journeys makes since for our family!