There are all kinds of kids in the foster system. This Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family®” series installment presents one child whose sweet nature and quick wit adds a lot of spice and laughter to the lives of his two dads. RaiseAChild.US contributing writer David Humiston shares the story.
I guess you could consider it just another average slice of American life when Ted, a screenwriter and game developer (gamers take note, Ted was a senior developer for the seminal "Elder Scrolls" series) from Ohio, and his husband, Ian, a merchandiser from England, attended a recent potluck lunch celebrating cultural diversity at kindergarten with their adopted, multiracial child, Mikey. What was their contribution? Well, how exactly does one best represent Ohio/England/African American ancestry? Why, casserole, of course, says Ted. A blend of noodles, chicken and vegetables seems an appropriate choice for this potpourri of a family. You could make the argument that such families are appropriately representative of new wave multiculturalism in America -- a country once famous for its open doors.
Food is somewhat central to this story. Ian and Ted met at a friend’s dinner party in Venice Beach in October of 2005. They had their commitment ceremony with about a hundred friends at their place in April of 2007, and they were married just last year. They talked about being parents very early on and investigated ways to make that happen -- including surrogacy. Ultimately, they felt that the process was overly expensive and that their own DNA was not that precious when there were kids in foster care that needed parents.
Additionally, Ian and his sister were adopted and Ian was very comfortable with not needing “blood” relations. They met Robyn Harrod and Sylvia Fogelman at the Southern California Foster Family & Adoption Agency (SCFFAA) and started to take all of the required classes. Those initial classes, Ted explained, were somewhat therapeutic for Ian. Going through the thoughts and planning that his adopting parents went through gave him a fuller understanding of the love and commitment given to both him and his sister.
Ted and Ian completed their coursework, baby-proofed their home and waited. They said “no” to placements that didn’t feel right and “yes” to two placements that didn’t work out. When given the option to foster children with severe medical needs, Ted and Ian also knew that they just weren’t fearless enough to serve such a child well -- and there’s nothing wrong with that. Knowing what your personal tools and strengths are is important in providing children with exactly what they need, and Ted and Ian would encourage you to know yourself well if you want the best possible outcome for all involved.
Ted and Ian were placed with Mikey in April of 2010 when he was just 21-months-old. They knew instantly that he was “the one.” Ted says that they “couldn’t have ever asked for a kid as awesome as he is and was since day one. He’s funny, silly, brave, empathetic, smart, strong and super cute. He was and is also extremely affectionate. It's hard not to think that you have a family when the kid is hugging you all the time!”
From the day Mikey came into their home, “his sweet nature was evident, particularly when you saw him playing with babies and animals.” Ted elaborated: “At his school, he is known as the one who comes rushing when one of his classmates is hurt, and he is empathetic to teachers who are having a bad day. At home, he is a comedian and entertainer, always trying to make us laugh.“
Sometimes, Ted says, his kindness and his funniness meet, as in preschool one day when he was doing something mildly naughty -- so mildly naughty that the teacher who told Ted the story didn't even remember what it was -- and one of the younger children went along with him. Mikey turned to the child and said, "Don't follow me when I'm making bad choices."
Mikey makes his parents laugh hard multiple times a day, and he asks the “most interesting questions about how the universe works.” They have to stay on their toes because he remembers everything and asks anything. They often use a book called, Telling the Truth to Your Foster & Adopted Child: Making Sense of the Past, by Betsy Keefer and Jayne E. Schooler, which has helped them explain to him, in truthful but age-appropriate ways, why he isn't with his mom, why people are different colors and all of those essential questions every adopted child needs to know. Reflecting on his family, Ted told me that “being a parent isn't for everyone, but to have an excuse to turn off your cell phone and get on the floor and play cards with your kid, or discuss why people are different, or cuddle him at night time is so therapeutic.
Mikey was adopted on National Adoption Day, exactly six months after his parents first saw him. His fathers insist that they had help in the adoption process. The Alliance for Children’s Rights helped them get educational benefits for Mikey. The attorneys for this group were the sponsors of National Adoption Day, and they helped the couple to not only complete their adoption on that day but set them up to be the first adoption case of the day in a courtroom filled with friends and celebrities. Family court is often not a happy place, but it was definitely a celebratory hall that day. Television footage later showed one of the unnamed celebrities (okay, Virginia Madsen) crying about the beautiful celebration.
All is good in this culturally cosmopolitan family. Lack of Italian ancestry will not likely keep Ian from bringing lasagna (his first choice for the last potluck event) to upcoming potluck meals. Cultures are meant to be mixed anyway. It makes their lives, and all of ours, richer in the end.
RaiseAChild.US is the nationwide leader in the recruitment and support of LGBT and all prospective parents interested in building families through fostering and adoption to meet the needs of the 400,000 children in the foster care system. RaiseAChild.US recruits, educates, and nurtures supportive relationships equally with all prospective foster and adoptive parents while partnering with agencies to improve the process of advancing foster children to safe, loving and permanent homes. For information about how you can become a foster or adoptive parent, please visit www.RaiseAChild.US.