In this week’s installment of the Huffington Post Queer Voices RaiseAChild.US "Let Love Define Family®" series, contributing writer David Humiston made quite the discovery when talking to Simon Flatt, a multi-talented modern superhero! His trick to managing all he does in his “never ending battle for truth and justice” as an advocate for gay adoption, foster care trainer and being a dad of eight is to run a happy but tight ship and time management -- which is challenging, but not impossible!
I’m reluctant to reveal this, but Superman lives in rural Florida, and he’s gay.
He has a hairline more akin to Lex Luthor’s and a name that sounds like a comic book villain. When he’s not devoting his time to training potential foster and adoptive parents and working a job specifically created for him at North Florida Regional Medical Center, Simon Flatt raises eight (yes, eight) children. Most of his children have behavioral disorders, one of which has a physical handicap. The most amazing thing about this father is that he doesn’t just manage these things, he manages them all well. He has been awarded the “Supporting Educational Needs Award” from the Partnership for Strong Families, the “Excellence in Child Welfare Services Award” from the Florida Department of Children and Families, and his employer has selected him for their Humanitarian of the Year award.
Growing up the son of a tobacco farmer, Simon Flatt learned the value and necessity of hard work and sheer persistence. He struggled with school and had to study later to get his GED. He has continued to learn anything and everything necessary to achieve his aims, which explains his work situation -- he is so multitalented and so willing and eager to tackle new tasks that his employer created a title for his job that still fails to adequately describe all he does and all he is willing to do. A natural nurturer and leader, Simon jokes that he has eight children at home and 20 at work. The value of humor is not lost on a man with eight children, but as lighthearted as he may be this man is a force of nature. An early advocate for gay adoption, he sued the state of Florida to allow him to adopt. His court date was set for Nov. 2010, and I have a feeling he would have won as a result of sheer will power, but Florida changed their laws in October of 2010, turning a contentious appearance into one of Florida’s earliest landmark gay parent adoption processes instead.
Simon co-teaches fostering with an adoption worker and a licensing specialist. He says that his job is to bridge the gap between dreams and expectations, telling prospective parents that their lives may never be more rewarding, but that there are challenging realities and multiple needs and he can provide shortcut answers to meet them head on. He is a walking compendium of practical advice on where and how to get the best possible educational, medical and emotional benefits for children and he speaks honestly from invaluable trial-and-error experiences.
His kryptonite appears to be needy children, but the constant exposure seems to have strengthened him. To make such a large household run Simon occasionally gets support from other caregivers. But he pays such favors forward by returning the favor for other foster families in the area as time permits. That being said, he does run a happy but tight ship. There are no video games in the house. He has an old game system that has never been taken out of the box. Also, his kids are allowed 30 minutes of television each night. The rest of the time is organized with chores and responsibilities. Each child has a chart to manage time for crafts, reading and just sharing time together. Simon feels it is important to spend time teaching manners, politeness and skills that will help each child take care of themselves when the time comes. With that many children, giving each of them devoted time is challenging, but not impossible. When he is asked how he finds the time for all that he does, Simon tells me his response is wonderment at what he did with all of his spare time before. And so continues the “never ending battle for truth, justice” the Simon Flatt way.
Have you ever thought of building a family through fostering, adopting, or weekend hosting? 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 415,000 children in the foster care system of the United States. 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. Take the next step to parenthood at www.RaiseAChild.US or call us at (323) 417-1440.