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World Adoption Day: Celebrating and Advocating for Families Created Through Adoption

World Adoption Day, taking place this year on Friday, November 9, is always an exciting opportunity to celebrate gay, bi, trans dads who created their families through adoption. But as our friends and supporters at Dove Men+Care like to remind us, this is also a great opportunity to consider the impact a national paid paternity policy could have on all our families, especially adoptive and LGBTQ ones. Driving the conversation beyond our Father's Day partnership, Dove Men+Care continues to be committed to championing paternity leave for dads everywhere, spotlighting the importance of taking as much time as you can during those early moments with your new child.


Without paid paternity leave, many adoptive dads are unable to take enough time off from work to care for their newborn baby or to help transition their new child into their homes, causing additional stress on all members of the family. And while only 15% of men in the U.S. currently have access to paid paternity leave benefits through their company, Dove Men+Care conducted a study earlier this year that found 69% of dads are more satisfied with their lives when they can be the caregivers they want to be.

We're proud to highlight the seven gay dad families below, all created through adoption, who share openly about the impact that paid (or a lack thereof) family leave had on them.

And on November 9 we invite you to support World Adoption Day and our quest to draw attention to the need of a nationwide paternity leave policy by donating directly to a family in need. Also, join with thousands of other families across the country by drawing a smiley face on your hand and sharing your family picture on social media with the #WorldAdoptionDay hashtag. (Add the #GaysWithKids hashtag so we're able to show-off your beautiful family, too!)

Dads Jonathan and Michael with daughter Emily

Emily with her two dads Jonathan (left) and Michael (right) and Judge Maureen Ward Kirby, March 28, 2013

For Jonathan and Michael, it took a long 4+ years to become fathers through adoption. Emily came to her dads at birth (she was abandoned at the hospital) and it took 7 months from that day until her adoption was finalized.

Adoption Finalized: August 23, 2013

"We were finally able to share the news with everyone beyond our family," said Jonathan. The husbands were at work the day they found out the adoption was finalized. "Our lawyer called us and we both cried over the phone."

"It was a long process with lots of ups and downs along the way," added Michael, "we were finally relieved it was all over."

How does paid paternity leave impact adoptive families?

This World Adoption Day, we are partnering with Dove Men+Care to recognize a specific challenge facing many families created through adoption: lack of paid paternity leave.

When Emily came to their family, Jonathan received two weeks paid paternity leave that was offered to adoptive parents through his work, and Michael received none. He used his five days of vacation (all he had accrued as it was January) and was able to work from home a couple of days a week.

"If we'd had a paternity leave policy, I could have had two weeks with her," explained Michael. "Any birth or adoption is a beautiful and special occasion; regardless of age, it's a chance to cement familial bonds. Short term benefits for an infant mean that the baby starts to trust the new people that are feeding it and changing its diapers; long term I can only see positive benefits as the family has a strong early basis built on trust."

Michael's experience was used as one of the examples to change that policy at his place of employment, and now all employees who become parents receive two weeks paid leave, and Michael is absolutely thrilled that now *all* parents have that initial time with their children.

"World Adoption Day reminds adoptive families of how special they are, and may prompt others to think about adoption as a way to grow their own families."

Jon, Emily and Michael celebrating World Adoption Day, 2018

On the importance of World Adoption Day

Michael and Jonathan recognize the importance of World Adoption Day as a chance to celebrate the special forming of a family. "It means a child has people that will love and take care of them," said Jonathan. "Each family has a special story about how it formed and it celebrates those stories."

***

Dads Jay and Joe with Tyler and Jason

Upper left: Tyler on the day of his adoption; lower left: Jason on the day of his adoption; right: vChristmas family photo December 2017

Jay and Joe fostered six children over four years. Tyler was with them for 9 months before they could adopt him, and Jason was their foster child for 6 months, then went to another family to be adopted along with his two biological brothers. Within months, that adoption unraveled and he was bounced from group home to group home. As soon as Jay and Joe made this discovery, they hired a lawyer and 9 months later he was back with them as a foster child and they adopted him as quickly as they could: 6 months from the day that they got him back.

Adoptions Finalized: January 20th and December 17th, 2017

"For Tyler, we filled the courtroom with so many people that they actually made us wait until the end of the day so we could have the entire courtroom to ourselves," said Jay. "It was amazing."

"For Jason," added Joe, "Hurricane Harvey has damaged the courthouse so badly that we adopted him in an office building cubicle with a judge and just us. It was small and intimate, but just as special."

How does paid paternity leave impact adoptive families?

This World Adoption Day, we are partnering with Dove Men+Care to recognize a specific challenge facing many families created through adoption: lack of paid paternity leave.

Neither Joe or Jay received even a day of paternity leave. They even had to take personal vacation days to consummate the adoption at the courthouse.

"Having paid leave would've allowed us to really integrate our children into our families more seamlessly," said Joe, "rather than always being involved in the hustle and bustle of daily life. As both dads work full time without a nanny or family in the city, they could've spent more time taking the kids to school, volunteering at their school so their sons knew they were close-by.

"Paid leave goes beyond the wellness of the family, it's good for society as a whole," added Jay. "Iceland gives their parents nine months, which they can split as they choose. It is also believed that this helps address the pay gap between men and women as men are able to take the same amount of time off as their female counterparts."

"World Adoption Day celebrates the beauty that is creating family through adoption..."

Jay and Joe with Tyler and Jason celebrating World Adoption Day, 2018

On the importance of World Adoption Day

"World Adoption Day celebrates the beauty that is creating families through adoption while raising funds to support families in their adoption process," shared Joe. "We love encouraging other families to explore the option of adoption when starting or growing their families and that is what World Adoption Day is all about."

***

Dads Tarik and Jeff with Avery

Tarik (left) with Avery and husband Jeff on Avery's adoption day

Avery came to her dads as a foster child at 3 weeks old. A year and a half later, she was officially adopted and they became a forever family.

Adoption finalized: September 13, 2017

"On adoption day we took the day off work and just hung out together at home," shared Jeff. The dads popped open a bottle of champagne, Avery had her apple juice, and the three went out to a lovely dinner.

"There was such a sense of joy, and relief, when the adoption was finalized," said Tarik. "We knew the moment she was placed in our arms for the first time that we wanted her to stay in our home forever ... There were so many moments of not knowing how things would play out, so sitting in that courtroom that day was a culmination of so many feelings and so much emotion."

How does paid paternity leave impact adoptive families?

This World Adoption Day, we are partnering with Dove Men+Care to recognize a specific challenge facing many families created through adoption: lack of paid paternity leave.

When Avery first arrived at their home, Tarik was able to take a week off, using vacation days, and Jeff took the following week. Then a close friend watched Avery for the next several weeks before she was able to start daycare. "It was extremely helpful that we had bosses who were understanding and willing to accommodate us throughout the entire process."

But while the dads appreciate their employers understanding, having paid paternity leave would've been extremely helpful when their daughter first came to them. "As a parent, especially a first time parent, there are so many questions you have, and things you are worrying about," said Jeff. "The fact that you aren't guaranteed paid time off to be with your new child is one more thing that adds a lot of stress."

"No matter how a family is formed, the need to be able to nurture, especially in the early days, remains the same," added Tarik, "paid leave provides that opportunity."

"We're so grateful that the process of adoption allowed us to be fathers, and allowed us to create a family."

Jeff, Avery and Tarik celebrating World Adoption Day, 2018

On the importance of World Adoption Day

Like all of our featured families, World Adoption Day is important to Tarik and Jeff because it showcases another way way of creating a family, and to celebrate all the of families and individuals touched by adoption. "There are so many children, of all ages, races, and circumstances, who have been adopted or who need to be adopted - World Adoption Day is a chance to highlight that."

***

Dads Nick and Nelson with Rio

Left: Nelson (above left) with Nick (middle) holding baby Rio at his adoption finalization. Right: Rio "signing" his name on the adoption finalization paperwork.

Rio was born June 9, 2016, and came home from the hospital with his dads, Nelson and Nick. It took another 8 months till his adoption was finalized. Two weeks prior to his adoption, the dads adoption agency filed for bankruptcy and closed. Thankfully their paperwork had already been filed and they could proceed, however, many other hopeful parents weren't so fortunate, losing deposits and precious time.

Adoption finalization: February 10, 2017

"It was the most sentimental and affirming day of our lives - well that and the day our son was born," said Nick, talking about Rio's adoption day. As it was a commemoration of their family officially becoming a unit of three, they opted to keep the celebration to just the three of them and spent a very relaxing day walking around Lake Merritt in Oakland, where they live, and eating a nice meal out together. "After all of the ups and downs of the adoption process it was important for us to spend time as a family unit and to prioritize quality time," said Nelson.

"It was a very surreal feeling to know that we had officially adopted our son," added Nick, "and I was looking forward to getting into the groove of parenthood without needing to worry that something could come between us and our son."

How does paid paternity leave impact adoptive families?

This World Adoption Day, we are partnering with Dove Men+Care to recognize a specific challenge facing many families created through adoption: lack of paid paternity leave.

While Nelson was only afforded two weeks of paid leave when they first became dads, which was over before they knew it, Nick had a very different experience. "I am a teacher and in my school district dads can take the same amount of leave as moms," said Nick. "I took every single of the 79 days of paternity leave that I could take, and it was the right decision." Although Nick was only paid 25% of his salary during his live, which was an adjustment and he hopes one day it will be a higher percentage, the precious time he had with his son to bond while Rio was at his most vulnerable and impressionable was priceless. "I can't imagine going back to work any sooner; it was such a gift that I believe every parent should be granted!"

"Paid leave must be an essential part of our economy and society if we want to be raising healthy, well-adjusted children. As an adoptive parent, it is essential to have extra time and space to bond with your child. I will always look back fondly on my son's first seven months."

"Growing our family through adoption has been the most rewarding and meaningful experience..."

Nick, Rio and Nelson celebrating World Adoption Day, 2018

On the importance of World Adoption Day

The dads are always humbled to find out how many people have been affected by adoption. "The face of adoption has changed quite drastically over the years," said Nelson. "There used to be a lot of stigma and shame attached to adoption, and I believe that has changed." The dads feel fortunate that their son has an open adoption and that they have a good relationship with both of his birth parents and their families. "Having a day that celebrates adoption globally allows anyone affected by adoption to see that there is community out there and that they are not alone."

"Every day I feel lucky to be a dad," added Nick. "I do not take the responsibility of parenthood lightly, and I feel strongly that we are raising the boy who was meant for us. Open adoption can be and has been a beautiful experience for our family."

***

Dads Carlos and Richard with Devon and Josephine

Left photo: Carlos holding Devon on his adoption day, with Richard (right); Right photo: Judge Stephen Schuster, Carlos holding Josephine on her adoption day, with Richard.

Richard and Carlos struggled for 12 years to become dads, trying both surrogacy and adoption. "We knew we always wanted a family and finally had the opportunity to do an independent adoption [in 2016]," said Richard. First Devon joined their family, born September 4, 2016 and then Josephine was born September 22, 2017. Both children have been with their dads since birth.

Adoption finalizations: Devon's on March 1, 2017 and Josephine's on December 6, 2017

On the day of both their children's adoption, it felt like a weight had been lifted off the dads. "All of the heartache, worry and struggle of the process was gone," explained Carlos. "And we were beside ourselves with joy."

For Devon's adoption day, the family celebrated by going out for brunch. And serendipitously, that was when they were approached about Josephine. "As a result, 9 months later we celebrated [Josephine's adoption] with a family brunch again!" said Richard.

How does paid paternity leave impact adoptive families?

This World Adoption Day, we are partnering with Dove Men+Care to recognize a specific challenge facing many families created through adoption: lack of paid paternity leave.

Richard works for a UK based company that gave him 6 weeks paid leave. Carlos on the other hand got nothing and had to use personal and vacation time to spend time with his children during their first days.

"The results of having parents at home is exponential," said Carlos. "There needs to be a bonding period that cannot always happen with work needs."

"To show the support of everyone touched by adoption..."

Richard, Devon, Carlos and Josephine celebrating World Adoption Day, 2018

On the importance of World Adoption Day

Richard and Carlos have taken part in World Adoption Day before, celebrating their road to fatherhood, and all those touched by adoption. The love the message it stands for and represents to their family: "We are here together and we are here to support and show love."

***

Dads Danny and Alex with Jaxson

Dads Alex (left) and Danny with their son Jaxson and Judge Asha Jackson on his adoption day

Alex and Danny's road to adoption was an exciting and overall uncomplicated one. "The overwhelming amount of support we received from family, friends, colleagues, and total strangers on social media made the wait and overall process a positive one," said Alex. "It felt like the whole world was working with us to help us achieve our dream of becoming dads."

11 months after going live, they were matched with Jaxson's birth mother, and after he was born, it was another six months till they were able to finalize the adoption.

Adoption finalization: March 23, 2016.

On the day of the adoption, Jaxson's godparents joined Alex and Danny and they all went out to their favorite family restaurant to celebrate. "It was incredible," shared Danny when describing the day. "It was an overwhelming sense of happiness; that moment solidified and legitimized our family forever."

How does paid paternity leave impact adoptive families?

This World Adoption Day, we are partnering with Dove Men+Care to recognize a specific challenge facing many families created through adoption: lack of paid paternity leave.

When Jaxson came to his dads, they were able to take a mixture of paid paternity leave and use paid time off. Those were the early days of fatherhood, and they were adjusting to a new routine and a new way of life.

Both dads know first-hand how important that early time spent at home was for their family. "We believe bonding is critical and having the time to do so without distractions was a blessing for us," said Alex. "Establishing the new normal without having to worry about work can have long-lasting benefits for children and parents a like."

"Adoption is a beautiful thing and creating awareness of the joy it can bring to one's life is worthy of celebrating!”

Danny, Jaxson and Alex celebrating World Adoption Day, 2018

On the importance of World Adoption Day

Like for most families touched by adoption, Danny and Alex are thankful to have a day that celebrates and recognizes all those touched by adoption.

Through their own journey Danny and Alex developed great friendships with other families who were also going through the adoption process; friendships and families that these dads are happy to honor on November 9.

***

Dads Ricky and Cédric with Théo

Cédric and Ricky holding Théo on his adoption day in 2016

Ricky and Cédric originally began their path to fatherhood with surrogacy, but after many years and four failed attempts, they decided to become licensed adoptive parents. Within a few months they were connected with a birth mother. Their son Théo was born January 30, 2016, and he came home from the hospital with his dads. The full process took just under 6 months from Théo's birth to adoption day.

Adoption Finalization: June 20, 2016

All their Miami family flooded the courthouse, and they all went out to lunch to celebrate. "We felt like the project we had started years before finally realized and that we were finally, officially a family!" shared Ricky.

How does paid paternity leave impact adoptive families?

This World Adoption Day, we are partnering with Dove Men+Care to recognize a specific challenge facing many families created through adoption: lack of paid paternity leave.

Thankfully Ricky's company of employment had recently updated its paternity leave to include adoption - this meant Ricky was able to be home with Théo for the first month. "We will be eternally grateful that Drinkfinity.com (a PepsiCo Venture) had this policy given that, when we brought Théo home, we hadn't prepared anything!" explained Ricky. "Call it superstition, but we had several disappointments before finally having Théo.

"As an employee it was very important to me to have time with my newborn and it showed to me that my employer recognized my family and supported us," added Ricky. "Our health insurance kicked in as soon as we told them we intended to adopt Théo which was also a great benefit."

“Teaching our son to be proud of how we became a family!”

Théo, Ricky and Cédric celebrating World Adoption Day, 2018

On the importance of World Adoption Day

To know that their family and others like them are being celebrated and recognized is hugely important said Cédric. Through adoption, they became a forever family and their wish to become dads came true. And for that, they're eternally grateful.

***

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The new sperm bank, Sperm Positive, launched on World Aids Day this year by three non-profits as a way to fight stigma surrounding HIV and parenthood. For years, scientists have known that those living with an undetectable level of HIV in their blood thanks to antiretroviral treatments can't transmit the virus through sex or childbirth. Yet discrimination and stigma persists.

The sperm bank exists online only, but will connect donors and those seeking donations with fertility banks once a connection is made on their site. Sperm Positive was started by three New Zealand non-profits — Body Positive, the New Zealand Aids Foundation and Positive Women Inc. — who hope the project will help disseminate science-backed education and information about HIV and parenthood.

Already, three HIV positive men have signed up to serve as donors, including Damien Rule-Neal who spoke to the NZ Herald about his reasons for getting involved in the project. "I want people to know life doesn't stop after being diagnosed with HIV and that it is safe to have children if you're on treatment," he told the Herald. "I've experienced a lot of stigma living with HIV, both at work and in my personal life that has come from people being misinformed about the virus."

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"I'm thankful for finally being adopted by my two dads," said Daniel, one of the boys, when it was his turn.

Rather than grab a tissue to dab her eyes, or ask the classroom to join her in a hearty round of applause to celebrate Daniel finding his forever family, the teacher took it upon herself to impart her personal religious beliefs onto the young boy. "Homosexuality is wrong," the teacher said in front of the class, adding that it was "sinful" for two men to live together.

The teacher, fortunately, was fired from Kelly Services, the substitute staffing company that employed her, quickly after the incident, but the moment is nonetheless receiving widespread attention in the press — no doubt in part because one of the boy's dads, Louis van Amstel of "Dancing With the Stars," posted a video clip to his 76,000 Twitter followers with the title: "Our child was bullied."

"It shouldn't matter if you're gay, straight, bisexual, black and white," he said to the New York Times in a follow up interview. "If you're adopting a child and if that child goes to a public school, that teacher should not share her opinion about what she thinks we do in our private life."

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"It doesn't mean that all of Utah is now bad," he told the Times. "This is one person."

It's also true that this type of prejudice is in no way limited to so-called red states, and incidents like these happen daily. LGBTQ parents and our children are subjected to homophobic and transphobic comments in schools, hospitals, stores, airlines and elsewhere as we simply go about living our lives. These moments so often fly under the radar — many classmates don't have the courage, as they fortunately did in this case, to report wrongdoing. Some administrators are far less responsive than they were here — and most of us don't have 76,000 Twitter followers to help make these moments of homophobia a national story.

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Change the World

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December 1st is World AIDS Day — a day to unite in our collective fight to end the epidemic, remember those we've lost, and bring much needed attention and money to support those who continue to live with HIV and AIDS. For us at Gays With Kids, it's also a time to lift up and celebrate the experiences of fathers, so many of who never thought they'd see the day where they would be able to start families.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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