Personal Essays by Gay Dads

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!



I

Show Comments ()
Entertainment

Take a Virtual Tour of The Homes of These Famous Gay Dads

Many famous gay dads — including Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ricky Martin — have opened up their homes to fans on the pages of Architectural Digest.

In each issue, Architectural Digest offers a peak into the homes of different celebrities. In recent years, they've featured the homes of several famous gay dads. Check out the videos and stories the magazine pulled together on the beautiful homes of Neil Patrick Harris, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Ricky Martin below!

Keep reading... Show less
Children's Books

New LGBTQ-Inclusive Children's Book Asks: What Makes a Family?

A new children's book by Seamus Kirst follows a young girl's journey of emotional discovery after she is asked which of her two dads is her "real dad."

Editor's note: This is a guest post from Seamus Kirst, author of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book "Papa, Daddy, Riley."

Throughout my life, I have discovered that reading provides an almost miraculous way of changing the way I think.

There is no medium that better offers insight into the perceptions, feelings and humanity of someone who is different from us. Through reading we become empathetic. Through reading we evolve. I have often emerged from reading a book, and felt like I was changed. In that, even in this digital age, I know I am not alone.

As children, reading shapes how we see the world. The characters, places, and stories we come to love in our books inform us as to what life might offer us as we grow up, and our world begins to expand beyond our own backyards.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Interested in Foster Care? These Amazing Dads Have Some Advice

As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, we rounded up some amazing examples of gay men serving as foster care dads, helping provide kids with a bright future.

Every May in the United States, we celebrate National Foster Care Month. With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it's our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.

Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out these resources here, and visit AdoptUSKids.

Meet the Foster Dads!

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad

David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice

"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.

Then Covid.

Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

How This Transracial Family Creates a 'Safe Space' to Talk About Their Differences

Kevin and David know they can never understand what it's like growing up as a young black girl — but they strive to create a 'safe space' for their daughters to talk about the experience

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at dads@gayswithkids.com

Is adopting a child whose race and culture is different from your own something that us queer dads need to talk about? Share our experiences? Learn from others? We've been hearing from our community, and the answer has been a resounding, "yes."

With over one-fifth (21.4%) of same-sex couples raising adopted children in the United States today (compared to 3% of different-sex couples), it's highly likely, at the very least, that those families are transcultural. According to April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute, Inc., all adoptive families are transcultural. "All, in my opinion, adoptions are transcultural because there are no two families' culture that is exactly the same, even if you went as far as to get very specific about the family of origin and the family of experience and almost make it cookie-cutter … no two families operate the same."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Movie Night: My Favorite Family Tradition

As his sons have gotten older, the movies have morphed away from cartoons and towards things blowing up — but movie night remains his favorite family tradition.

Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about his life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Of all of our traditions and rituals, probably the most consistent and longest-lasting one was movie night. Sure, we read the heck out of Harry Potter. But our capacity for watching Harry Potter? We're talking Quidditch World Cup here, folks.

In its early version, movie night looked like this: During the week, I would order a movie and a cartoon from Netflix—back when "Netflix" meant "mail." On Saturday night—and I mean, faithfully, every Saturday night—we would order a pepperoni pizza (which Mark faithfully took the meat off of—I'll get to food later) for delivery and then sit and watch our cartoon and movies while eating. The kids had a say in the movie, but I got to pick the cartoon. They watched enough of their own cartoons on the regular, and besides, this gave me a great opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Josie and the Pussycats.


Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse