To see Steve Ledoux and Mark Becktold with their kids, you would naturally assume they had been planning for this moment all of their lives. But for them, both in their mid-50’s, the thought of being dads is a fairly recent one. In this week’s Huffington Post Queer Voices RaiseAChild “Let Love Define Family®” series, contributing writer Eric Criswell shares their story and their evolved definition of family.
The first time Steve and Mark met it was clear that they had so much in common and, within seven months, they bought a house and were living together. The two were very active in the community and became involved in the fight against Prop 8, making trips to Washington DC and Sacramento to voice their opinions. “We both felt strongly about wanting to have equal rights as any other couple,” Mark said, “and once that was achieved, we realized that also meant we could have equal rights as a family ― something we never really thought about until that was achieved.”
Steve and Mark discussed it and agreed that they were interested in creating a family through the foster-adopt system. Steve explained, “we had the conversation, and neither of us had to convince the other one. We were in total agreement. I began by doing online research and came across the RaiseAChild website. On the site there was a button that read, ‘Take The Next Step to Parenthood,’ so we clicked on it and our new adventure began.”
There were the classes, the training, the licensing, and the paperwork ― all seemed to be daunting, but they made it through and got the call from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services for an emergency placement. They both felt that it made more sense for them to have an older child, but instead they received Jeremiah, a 19-month old baby that needed a foster family. Steve acknowledged, “it was much more work than we initially thought, but we learned that people can handle much more than they think they can.”
It was clear to them that the best interest of the child was always the main priority, and during the 18 months they had Jeremiah, they worked closely with the social workers and Jeremiah’s biological mother to facilitate a reunification. According to the social worker, she had never seen any couple, same-sex or opposite sex couple, do as much as Steve and Mark to get mother and son back together.
Once they were united, Jeremiah’s mother knew what these two had done for her and her son, and was very appreciative. She asked if they would be willing to remain a part of Jeremiah’s life and watch him from time to time. They remain very close and have Jeremiah at least once a week as his mother continues to work and create a life for her and her son.
“While we had Jeremiah in our care, we met the two brothers that would become our sons, Adrian and Matthew,” Steve said. “They are typical kids, funny, athletic, full of energy and the occasional attitude. They had no boundaries or routines before they came to our home, so it has been a learning experience for everyone, but they seem to be thriving with their new rules and structure.”
Adrian and Matthew were fostered by Steve and Mark for six months, and the adoption became official on St. Patrick’s Day, a point they find ironic since the brothers are considered “Irish twins”― siblings that are born within twelve months of each other.
Mark had worked for a medical billing company for years, and admits it wasn’t a hard decision to leave that behind to become a stay-at-home dad. “I know this is cliché, but it is the hardest job I have ever had. I believe it was an advantage for me to come home from school and have my mother at home, and we wanted to give that to our kids. There are so many times they arrive home from school and have something that they want to share or vent, and it is important to us that they come home to their dad, and not a nanny or babysitter.”
Having a family changes everything, and they stress that you really need to educate yourself about the process and how it will affect every aspect of your life. As older gay men, there was lots of hesitation about whether they could handle all of the situations that arise from having a family, and friends were not always supportive. Steve sums it up, “as an adult you can get stuck in your routine and expectations, but at any age you can open yourself up to your full potential, and you will find energy that you never thought you had!”
“What is most amazing,” Steve says, “is that you get to explore life again with your kids and you get the joy of adding those experiences to your own life.”
In addition, their own views changed on their definition of a family. When they first met Adrian and Matthew, there was also a third, younger brother, Rudy. Because of Rudy’s special needs and situation, he was placed with another couple, who were looking for one child. It was a perfect fit and everyone agreed to have the brothers spend as much time together as possible.
“Our definition of family went out the window,” explained Steve, “as we realized there is not one right family, the family you have is the best family. We started out wanting to create one family, but with Jeremiah and his mother, and Rudy and his parents, we got three families!”
Have you thought about building a family of your own through fostering or adopting? RaiseAChild 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 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.