If we weren’t living it, I would say that communities like Whitefish Bay were a thing of the past. Our neighbors watch our house and water our flowers when we are on vacation and their daughter is our dog walker. The entire community celebrates holidays together with parades through our quaint downtown complete with plenty of candy thrown to the children who anxiously wait on the sidelines. Public parks and beaches line the lakefront and make a perfect spot to view fireworks in the summer. There are ice cream socials in front of the library, pumpkin-carving contests in the fall and block parties to welcome the good weather.
This past year was our first experience with the schools as we were hosting an AFS exchange student. We were nervous about how a young man from a different country would fit in, however he was welcomed with open arms. His teachers provided him extra help before and after school as he was navigating English as a second language and he rapidly found new friends on the cross-country team. Neighbors hosted welcome parties and goodbye socials. When he left, it was clear that Whitefish Bay would always be his American home.
While we know that we’ll provide our future child the best home we can, knowing that they’ll grow up in a community that is supportive, caring and welcoming is a blessing. Right out our door will be neighbors that look out for them, children to play with, teachers that go the extra mile and friends who will love them.
When we first started thinking about adoption, same-sex marriage was still a hotly debated subject. In fact, when we moved to Wisconsin from Washington, DC, we found ourselves in the odd situation of leaving a state in which we were married to move to a state that didn’t recognize our marriage. While several pioneering couples blazed new paths via the court system to establish parental rights, we questioned if it was the right time to adopt given how many federal laws were linked to marriage.
With the Supreme Court decision establishing marriage equality four years ago, thankfully same-sex couples who would like to adopt no longer have to face an uphill battle. But still today, well-meaning folks can still wonder if same-sex parents are as successful as others in raising happy and healthy children. Currently, there are more than 200,000 same-sex couples raising children in the United States alone. Given the sizable numbers, the outcomes for children in same-sex households have been easy to study.
Forgive the data geek in me for one minute. I promise note to bore you to death with all the details. One of the earliest indications that children in same-sex parent households fared well came from the National Survey of Children’s Health in 2011, which found “no differences between same-sex and different sex household types on family relationships or any child outcomes.” Later studies actually found that children in same-sex households did better in school and social-emotional learning, particularly when it came to “open-mindedness, tolerance and having role models for equitable relationships.” Interestingly, there is also evidence that gays and lesbians are especially accepting of open adoptions, where the child retains some contact with his or her birth parents. And the statistics bear out that birth parents often have no problem with their kids being raised by same-sex couples.
I guess there will always be some that believe a two daddy household isn’t natural. To them, we’d like to offer up Sphen and Magic. They were such great dads that the New York Times wrote an article about them. I know that we’re not as cute as Sphen and Magic, but I’m certain that we’ll follow their lead as parents.
Before we started seriously learning about the adoption process, we were told by a few close friends that it was a process of hurry up and wait. As we interviewed adoption agencies and learned more about the process, we came to learn that before you are considered a “waiting family,” there was much to be done. Education classes. Medical appointments and physicals. Home studies with social workers. Getting licensed as a foster home, which involved a series of safety inspections. Books to read. Financial disclosures. Oh, and we had to sign a contract that said if either Justin or I were to get pregnant, we were still responsible for our obligations. Perhaps there are cases of immaculate conception among gay male couples? This gave us a good laugh.
Now, don’t get us wrong. There is a process for a reason and we’re grateful for every step along the way as we’ve grown together and are much more prepared today than we were a year ago. I would even venture to say that we may have the most safe house in the entire county! With a total of 9 fire alarms on two floors, if there ever were to be a fire, everyone on our block would know. Better safe than sorry.
The process behind preparing a family for adoption is very thorough, as it should be. As we complete this part of the process, we find ourselves wondering if adopted children are, as a whole, the most loved kids in the world? Adoption is not something that any family can enter into lightly and from what we’ve experienced to date, it is amazing to see so many wonderful, caring adults centering decisions around a child’s best interests. The process may be challenging, but hopefully the result is well worth it. For its part, Adoption Services, Inc. has done a terrific job in our preparation.
Yesterday, we officially became a “waiting family” with our agency. Now, we are at the moment where we put our desire to create a loving home for a child out into the universe and wait. We find ourselves thinking about the day that a birth parent will walk into our lives and it will change forever. As they say, the best things in life come to those that wait, so today, we are thrilled to be waiting!
When we decided on pursuing adoption, we knew that the process could sometimes take quite a bit of time. We had known all our lives that when the time was right, we wanted to be dads. For us, a year ago the time seemed right. We had established ourselves in a wonderful family-centered community, had stable and rewarding jobs, and a group of wonderful friends and supportive families. So, we began the adoption process.
In the meantime, we had a home with a couple of spare bedrooms, a desire to learn more about world cultures and lots of love to give. Growing up, we both had wonderful experiences with exchange students and we thought, why not host a teen who wanted to experience the world?
Some thought we had lost our mind. We weren’t parents and who in their right mind starts parenting with a teenager? But, we thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for a student to learn about a new country and for us to learn a bit about parenting. So, away we went.
Meet Gard, our exchange son from Norway. In a few days, we will place him on a flight back home after nine months together. Needless to say, there will be some ugly crying. We’ve already warned him. This last year together has been one of the most rewarding of our lives. As with any relationship, we had our ups and downs, but even in the challenging moments, we couldn’t love him any more. Not only did we gain a son, but our experience hosting reinforced our desire to start a family of our own through adoption.
Thanks Gard for making us first-time dads look good. We’re so lucky to have you in our lives and we can’t wait to see what is next for you. Oh, and please remember to Skype us every now and then.
We have set up this blog to reach out to prospective birthmothers/parents and to keep our friends & family up to date on our journey to start a family. Our home study and pre-adoption classes are now complete so we are ready to be matched!