‘Two men should not father two little boys.’ It was a kick in the gut.’: Gay foster dads find ‘happy ending,’ adopt siblings

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“Kyle and I met back at the start of 2011. I reached out on social media because I thought Kyle was cute. We spoke back and forth via messenger for a month, and then exchanged numbers, set up a date at the movies, and have pretty much been inseparable ever since.

Kyle knew within six months of our being in a relationship he wanted a family with me. Growing up, he has always wanted to be a dad, and he couldn’t wait. But, both of us being 21 and still living at home with our parents wasn’t really a conducive environment to start a family. So we waited. I made a deal with him: once we got our own place and, hopefully, were able to get married, then we could start to think of a family. We continued to date, travel, and enjoy each other. We moved into an apartment, then a townhouse. We ended up getting engaged in 2015 and then married in July of 2017. So, since I am a man of my word, our next step was kids.

A pair of gay men, one in a checkered shirt and the other wearing glasses
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

We started to look into options and see what the best fit for us would be. Our first option was private adoption. That didn’t speak to us. The main factor in our decision was money. We both found it outrageous that in order to provide a loving home for a child in need, it was going to cost between $20,000-$30,000. Money we definitely didn’t have.

Our second option was surrogacy. We thought about this one long and hard. Unfortunately, covering any and all expenses for the surrogate and the baby was not an option either. Plus, the entire process of having to find a woman to carry our baby was very off-putting, for me specifically. It felt almost like a strange dating game show. Only at the end, you didn’t end up with a date. You ended up with a baby.

Our third option was ‘foster to adopt.’ This was our final choice. It also was the most logical, pertaining to our financial situation. Once we finalized this was our decision, we ran with it. One thing about Kyle and me is we never half-a** anything. We whole-a** everything. We did our research and figured out the process could be long and tedious, but we knew the end goal could result in children. We saw the finish line and went for it.

We contacted the right people. We went through the proper channels. Turns out the entire process can actually last up to a year before you and your partner can even get certified as licensed foster parents. You sign more paperwork for foster licensing than you do when you purchase a house. You have to attend training, parenting classes, and education modules. Someone comes to your house and does a thorough top to bottom inspection. Cabinets must be baby-proofed, outlets must be child-proofed, fire extinguishers must be readily available, just to name a few. You must pass a background check, and you even get interviewed multiple times alone and then with your spouse/partner.

The whole process can get quite tedious. It makes sense though. They want to make sure you are doing this for the right reasons and not just for the money. That’s right. The agency supplies you with a stipend to make sure the child in your care is properly taken care of. Some of the horror stories we were told by caseworkers of some scheming, nefarious people would make anyone’s stomach turn. So that’s why the extensive peek into your past and present—to make sure the child in question goes to a home that will actually care for them and keep them safe.

During some of those interviews, they ask some fairly tough questions causing introspection. You are expected to be very honest in your answers. We were told not to sugarcoat anything. So when we were asked what age, race/ethnicity, sex, etc. of the child we would be comfortable taking, our response was we wanted a newborn. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else should matter. But the point of this specific questionnaire was not to make it seem like a quirky Facebook quiz. It was to make sure you didn’t try to be a martyr and take on more than you could, hence the introspection I spoke of above. You and your partner must have a clear vision of what you can offer and then go from there.

Now, being fully immersed in the process can sometimes make you a bit crazy or even make you lose focus as to what you are striving for: to become a parent to a child in need. Luckily, my husband is very grounded and was able to pull me back down to earth if I ever got too overwhelmed. And that happened more than once. The more we learned, the more fearful I became, if I’m being honest. The purpose of fostering is actually to reunify the child you are temporarily taking care of with a biological family member. That was jarring for me. Our end goal of adoption wasn’t necessarily the reality of what would happen.

Luckily for us, the agency we got certified through did a very good job informing us of that. Being a foster parent was an incredibly difficult journey and should not be taken lightly. For a minute there, it almost felt like a ‘Scared Straight’ scenario. I turned to my husband a few times during these serious moments in our classes asking, ‘Are they trying to turn us off to being foster parents?’ But they were actually doing the opposite, making sure the message of the service you were providing was clear. You put a lot of time, effort, and love into a child who definitely needs and deserves it. But you might have to let the child go. Even though adoption was OUR end goal, it was never going to be a guarantee. My biggest fear was I would get too attached and then have to see the little one leave. It was an exhausting internal struggle. But again, one we felt was worth it.

It did help that we had immense support from family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, etc. It was like our own personal cheer squad, waiting with bated breath each time they saw us. They knew how much love we had to give, and they wanted to see it in action. Truth be told, not everyone was in our corner though. We did have a few ‘people’ say some pretty hurtful things before we even finished the licensing process. Luckily for us, we had the foresight to understand this process was not only a scary adjustment for us but also for the extended family in our lives. They were acting and speaking out of fear, their own insecurities, and some blind ignorance. We knew they didn’t mean to be hurtful with the things they said to us, but that didn’t mean it didn’t bruise our psyche. I think growing up as queer people helped both of us understand, respond to, and cope with those isolated situations directly and efficiently.

What would’ve taken us about a year, we fast-tracked whatever we could, and we were able to get certified in six months. So when we finally got a call, we were ecstatic and a bundle of nerves just like any new father would be. Our little guy was four days old, and we picked him up from the hospital. He was tiny and was withdrawing. For the first few months we had him, he would vibrate like a cell phone. Thankfully, our little Keon didn’t need any medication to help with that. We did find out, however, he was a horrible asthmatic due to the drugs he experienced while in utero. They usually don’t diagnose kids as young as he was (five months), but the pulmonologists could not deny it.

Gay fathers hold their newborn son in a hospital
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.
A baby with asthma breathes into an inhaler
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

Just as we were adjusting to dad-life, we grew from a family of three to a family of four in just a short six months. We ended up coming into the care of Keon’s older sibling. Shaun was almost two and a half when he came home. We were very scared to say yes when we received this call. Mainly, our reluctance came from because we were both still trying to navigate being fathers to the little baby we already had. We had no idea how to parent a toddler. And boy, he didn’t make it easy on us.

A toddler wearing pajamas stands next to Christmas decorations
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.
Brothers wearing grey sweaters look at the water through a fence
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

Shaun was coming from a volatile situation. He had previously been in a foster home for the first year of his life, before being permanently placed with a relative. The relative did not have a very healthy environment for him to grow up in. He was extremely non-verbal. If he got angry, he would lash out and become very physical. Let’s just say he had a mean right hook, and I got to experience it firsthand quite a few times. When we brought our concerns up to the agency, they suggested therapy for him. And that was the best decision we collectively made.

A boy in a red Mickey Mouse shirt plays in a plastic tunnel
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

So needless to say, there was never a dull moment in our household from then on. We began juggling a newborn baby with breathing issues, who never seemed to want to sleep. And we were constantly on our toes with a fiery two-year-old. Those first four months were a lot of adaptation for everyone. The operative words during that time were patience and love. We had to take our time with both boys, and in turn, they took their time with us. It was almost as if there was an unspoken respect between the four of us. I don’t want to give a false portrayal that everything was roses, either. There were lots of tears, raised voices, ever-evolving routines, and sleepless nights as we all continued to acclimate.

A baby strapped into a highchair at a table
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.
A toddler hugs his baby brother, who is trying to crawl away
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.
A pair of brothers sit smiling in a laundry basket
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

As both boys began to grow up, they began to develop their own personalities and became quite attached to us. Both Kyle and I were present for many milestones, firsts, and everything in between. We fostered for almost a year and a half before we were finally presented with the option to adopt. That day can only be described as pure joy. We had gotten word at the start of 2020 that permanent placement was on the horizon, and it was looking like adoption was in our favor. You try not to get too excited, but we were beyond happy. In an unexpected twist, we did have a surprise family member of both boys step forward for custody right at the tail end of things. They believed ‘two men should not father two little boys.’ That was a kick in the gut. My anxiety was through the roof those few months before our court date. I have the grey hairs to prove it.

Gay fathers hold their adoptive sons who are wearing Halloween costumes
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.
A baby boy holds a pride flag outdoors
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

I do remember that day in court very vividly. After all the witnesses, case files, and testimonies, the judge sided with us. She addressed us directly before her gavel came down on the sound block. She made eye contact with us both and said, ‘Wow. Thank you for everything you have done and will continue to do.’ I grabbed my husband’s hand, and we could not hold back our tears. We sobbed on the spot. After meeting, caring for, and falling in love with these two tiny humans, all the while knowing at any moment they could’ve been ripped away, had caused the both of us to metaphorically hold our breath for over a year. At that moment, we exhaled.

Gay fathers with their adopted toddlers at a fence by the water
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

Now I don’t take lightly the fact that a mother had to birth two children and have them taken away from her for us to become parents. I can’t imagine the physical, emotional, and psychological pain she felt during that same joyous moment. With the pounding of the gavel, her future with her kids abruptly ended. We did get to speak to her and give her the biggest hug after the ruling. We consoled her and assured her both of her boys would be taken care of. She knew that. During this whole process, we got to know her very well, especially my husband. We developed a bond with her, and we still keep in contact with her to this day. We had stated in court we would make a private social media account only for her. We send her updates via pictures or videos weekly or biweekly. Because we have an open line of communication, she sends us updates on her as well. I know it’s not the same as if they were physically there with her, but she still gets to be a part of their lives and ours too.

Brothers playing and laughing
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

Shaun remembers his mom vaguely. Keon not so much. We are very open about their adoption, and we keep her spirit alive by talking about her whenever they want to bring her up. If the question comes up of ‘why can’t we see her?’ We explain she is ‘sick and cannot take care of them, so daddy and I had to step in and help her out.’ We only speak of her in a positive tone, because she is their mother after all. And since we keep in touch via social media, the boys can see pictures of her whenever they so choose. That helps a lot.

A toddler kisses his adoptive father on the cheek
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

You’re now caught up to our story. In May of 2020, we legally adopted both of them. It has been exactly one year since that official ruling, and we just celebrated their first ‘Gotcha Day’ in our new house. Both boys are happy, healthy, and thriving, especially in their new, gigantic backyard. And that is the path we wish to continue on, for all of us. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for us and are excited to give our boys the chance to reach their fullest potential by giving them any and every opportunity to do so.

Adopted brothers and their gay fathers out in a field
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our journey so far. For anyone out there who is remotely considering fostering or foster-to-adopt like we did, make sure you really evaluate your options. Keep an open line of communication with everyone involved with the process, especially your partner. This process is not for the faint-hearted. Our journey had a happy ending, but you have to make sure you are prepared for any possible outcome. Just know if you have a lot of love to give, there are so many children out there who are ready and waiting to receive that love. So dive in. You won’t regret it.”

A boy leans over to kiss his younger brother on the cheek
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.
Gay fathers hold up their adoptive sons
Courtesy of Josh M. and Kyle C.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Josh M. and Kyle C. of Northwest Ohio. You can follow their journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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