By an Adopt4Life Member
In this blog, the writer will share their adoption story as a same-sex couple. As the adoption stories for each child are unique, the writer will address portions of the adoption process as seen through their lens. The writer would like to note that they experienced discrimination by some agencies and other foster/adoptive families because of our sexual orientation, which will not be discussed.
I grew up in a religious missionary family on the other side of the world. My parents are Christian and Jewish and I am multi-raced. I have experienced many other faith-based approaches throughout my life. My wife and I met as young people at a faith-based internship. After I finished college we continued our friendship over a couple of years, later leading to a romantic relationship. After living together in multiple different countries, we married in Ontario without our parents or friends attending our small ceremony. Our families have become accepting over the years and as parents we are glad to be part of a large extended family support system.
As young people, we both wanted children and were very connected with our extended families. While growing up, we both babysat extensively. In addition, I spent my later teen years working as a nanny for children in many diplomat families who had indirect trauma and notably problematic relationships with their parents. Many of the children displayed socially unusual behaviours. Most acted below their chronological age and displayed detached relationships with their parents. I personally worked with these children’s schools and therapists, yet I had never seen or been exposed to children in society care. I was familiar with adoption as I have many extended family members who are adopted, but I was completely unfamiliar with foster care.
I started in a corporate job in my late 20’s and my co-workers would respectfully joke that I was a “white picket fence gay.” I wanted the house, the cars, the yard, the dog, and the kids; I wanted the “dream.” A couple years after establishing my career, my wife and I began extensive conversations about raising children. Some discussions included in-depth planning for discipline and thoughts on our children’s future lives. We also thoroughly discussed the options of having birth children versus adopting. We discussed and explored some of the best and worst-case scenarios for both options and looked at everything down to the actual cost analysis.
We decided that adoption was the best fit with our connections to our faith and our convictions. We believed there were too many children in need of families for us to ignore that path. I imagined parenting younger children, maybe two and three years old. I reviewed how adoptions worked in our province and began reading books, as many books as two library systems and Amazon could provide. I particularly enjoyed reading accounts from other same-sex parents. Same-sex adoptive parents appeared to be more compassionate and open-minded, possibly because of their own experiences of society’s prejudice as LGBTQ individuals. My reading covered a variety of other adoptive parent’s valuable experiences and the understanding of these family stories lead me to believe that all situations in adoption are truly unique as each individual’s response to adoption is truly unique.
When we were ready to explore adoption possibilities, we discovered that our local Family & Children's Services exclusively supported the foster-to-adopt model. Families were not permitted to outright adopt, but must participate in the foster process, only being able to adopt if the child/ren became adoptable. I remember having two major fears before we got farther into the process. The first was the fear of judgement. A fear that someone else was going to judge my choices in life and have a say in my home and my relationships. The second fear was based in my general aversion to foster care. I was afraid I would love a child, as a forever parent, and later lose the child before the adoption process. We attended the training, completed the home studies and necessary checks, and were approved as foster-to-adopt candidates. While we waited for a placement, we considered Adopt Ontario’s Children Waiting (online listing of children who are adoptable, with photos and biographies) and planned to attend the Toronto A.R.E (Adoption Recourse Exchange—matching adoptive families with children waiting to be adopted). As young parents in our late 20’s, we were specifically interested in adopting siblings, under the age of five years old.
We expressed interest in several sets of siblings, the first was two girls a little bit older than our initial plan. One of the girls had a diagnosed disability, but that wasn’t something that put us off at all, as we were aware through research that this situation was common. Once we expressed interest, the agency discussed our intent with their current foster parents who were unaware that these girls were even adoptable. The foster parents wanted to provide permanency in their home, which made sense to all of us. We expressed interest in another sibling set, all boys, but were told that the children specifically wanted a dad, so we would not be considered. Within days of these two situations, our local Family & Children's Services called us for a placement of three significantly older siblings (the oldest two being a boy aged 16 and a girl aged 12).
As an adoptive parent, I started my relationship with the children as their adoptive mother. It was hard to remember to be removed and act like the foster parent I was somehow supposed to be. The children in our placement had never been in care before and had also never known or seen a “gay family.” Though they had heard about same-sex relationships, they came from a smaller town and were not very involved in their local community. I remember our son’s first day as he talked on the phone to his friends and birth parents about us being lesbians, and how that was a source of great interest to him and his relations. At that time, the younger two children didn’t want to tell their classmates that they were in foster care. The 12-year-old immediately called us her step-moms (not one child asked how she had two step-moms). Though we offered many options (aunts, friends, stepparents, etc.) to explain our family structure, the youngest child struggled to accept the change in family dynamics.
The youngest child wanted to have the idealized mother and father family composition witnessed on television. About a year after starting in a new school and new programs, people knew this child had two moms. At a Scouts-style meeting, my youngest child’s peer explained their parents’ divorce, noting both parents had new partners. Our youngest described their family as “a birth father and a birth mother” and began to explain the current home structure as “an adoptive mother and…and…and” which concluded with silence and my child looking at the floor. I completed the statement saying the child had two moms at home. The other child looked at me and nonchalantly said “cool” and we all completed the art project. The child listening to my child’s story was indifferent to the concept of same-sex parenting.
My oldest two children had differing perspectives of the birth home than the youngest child. The older children described disparity in the birth home with preferential treatment given to the youngest child. The older two children almost immediately introduced us as their two mothers at school and other events and with friends, acting as though our family had always been this way. The youngest struggled with misunderstood religious views of same-sex relationships as well as a closed mind to equal rights for themselves and for women in general.
All our children had struggles, some unique to themselves and some similar due to biological family circumstances. Comparable to other adoptive families of older children, we experienced some very difficult situations, most of which we were able to work through together as a family and with assistance where needed. When the children became crown wards, the older children were anticipating and excited about adoption, but the youngest asked if they were being “forced.” We would never force a child to be adopted; that was never a part of our family plan.
My heart was broken. This was the child I had spent the most time with, attended the most programs with and events for, how did they not want me to be their mom? I sang songs at night and rocked the child in a rocking chair, I painted the pictures and did the art work, I even showed this child how to play with toys and games. Though the child was school-aged, I taught them the ABCs, how to read, how to ride a bike and how to skate. We I took them to therapy and advocated for the best services to work through their difficulties. My wife tutored them after school, made home-cooked meals at breakfast lunch and dinner, was there before and after school. I could go on and on, but we were this child’s mothers and the child was loved. This child wanted more—the birth parents, us, and an additional set of parents in the form of a mother and father.
A wedge began to grow between the youngest child and the older siblings. The older two children claimed they preferred living with two moms as they often expressed fear in relationships with men. The wedge was drawn sharper when the youngest child’s language began to directly violate our simple family values and our rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The youngest child started behaving in ways that were damaging to their relationship with their own siblings and consequently this child was later moved to an alternate home for safety reasons prior to adoption. The loss of this child changed my outlook on life itself. The ambiguous grief and loss of “my child” precipitated a leave from work as the loss of this child was to me like a death.
The two older children wanted to remain a part of our family through adoption. The middle child fought to stay in our home, engaging the Provincial Child Advocate, Children’s Social Justice, and the Office of the Children’s lawyer to remain with us. Our local Family & Children’s Services was particularly interested in keeping the younger two siblings together regardless of the eldest two children’s rights and preferences. After the youngest had moved, we signed adoption probation for our daughter and planned to adopt our son who was soon turning 18, and would be adopted as an adult. After his birthday, Family & Children’s Services indicated they would no longer assist with the costs of his adoption. We wrote a letter to the Minister of Parliament and cc’d our local Family & Children's Services regarding our son’s situation. The cost of adoption was later covered by our local Family & Children's Services.
Our desire is that the rights of teenagers removed from their homes, and who want to be adopted, be considered. Our son would have aged out of care without a future, like most older children in the system, and our daughter would have disappeared through the cracks. Some older children really want to be adopted. For our children, adoption has altered their lives in the best way possible. We strongly believe that older children need to be given more rights and a stronger voice in their families of origin prior to apprehension and later within the public system. As a family, we will continue to advocate for the revolutionary changes needed.
We are very close to our adoptive children; they have always been our own. We advocate for them and we recognize their pasts, we support their biological family relationships (at our children’s discretion) and fight for our children’s futures. As people of faith we believe there is a plan for each of our kids. We are glad to have traveled down this path of adoption.