As part of our Family Friday series, every week we spotlight one family, share the story of their love and send lots of love and support to them from our own huge family all over the world.
This month, we're celebrating National Adoption Month by partnering with the ever incredible Family Equality Council. All November, we'll be celebrating families who have adopted or in the process of doing so. Join us in celebrating these very special families and show them some love. Your families are beautiful. Thank you for continuing to share them with us.
This week, we're going to save our gushing about this family, because if we start, we won't be able to stop and we'll never get to the interview. When Jason reached out to us his introduction to his family, it was almost too good to be true. Their story! Those children. All 7 of them. Yes, seven. Here's what he said:
My name is Jay (Jason) and my husband is Michael. We met over thirteen years ago in Los Angeles. Not too long after dating we both knew that we wanted to start a family together. We have seven (7) adopted children together and have been through four finalizations over the years. Our children range in age between 23-7. We have five boys and our two youngest are girls. We were legally married in Massachusetts in 2004. Our two oldest are currently in the military. One is a Marine and one is in the Army.
There's nothing more we can say here that could top what they have to say below, so let's just get straight to the interview. Meet Jay and Michael.
How did you and your partner meet?
Michael and I met in Los Angeles completely by chance. We were out playing pool with friends in West Hollywood. I was walking around the pool table to meet my friends and I was almost hit by one of the pool sticks as someone was shooting. As I backed up, I literally fell into Michael's lap. From that moment on, we have been together.
Tell us about your wedding
We had an amazing wedding in West Brookfield, Mass. By the time we "officially" got married, we had already adopted six children and were already working on our seventh. The wedding was performed by a Justice of the Peace that had married my father and his wife as well as my sister and her husband. It was a bit of a family tradition. The wedding was beautiful and the reception even better. All took place at my sister's farm and the reception in her big red barn. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It was even nicer having my father stand up for my husband and my very close friend, Michelle Salem, stand up for me. A true family event.
How has your extended family embraced your nuclear one?
Our extended family is amazing on both sides and have completely embraced our very unique family. To watch the grandparents interact with their grandkids is beautiful. They are extremely proud of the family. It is also wonderful to see how all of our kids interact with their family. It is like they've always been a part of this family.
Tell us about your children and your adoption experience.
Our adoption experience has been quite the journey. Michael and I both have always wanted to adopt children even before we became a couple. It was easy for us to start this process together because it was a previous goal for both of us. We also chose to adopt through the County of Los Angeles because there is such a need for families.
We started our process by adopting our three oldest sons. At the we started the process they were 11, 9 and 5 (Aaron, Karon and Shakir). We attended the Black Adoption Festival that the County of Los Angeles was hosting. As soon as we saw these wonderful boys, we knew they should be a part of our family.
As we were going through the finalization process for these three boys we found out that they had two more younger brothers still in the foster care system. Initially, we were told that we would not be able to adopt them because they were with the same foster home since birth. That didn't stop Michael and me. We petitioned the court for these two boys and after many meetings our then 2- and 3-year-old boys (Brandon and Rashad) were placed with us.
While we were finishing up the finalization on our two youngest boys, Michael's aunt was also going through the adoption process. She was adopting two boys herself. We then found out that her boys mother was having a baby girl. Michael's aunt did not feel she could take on the challenge of raising a baby. We decided to pursue the adoption of our daughter (Paris). It was a humbling experience because we were able to be in the hospital the day she was born. At this point, we "thought" our family was complete.
As we were going through the adoption process with Paris we were informed that our daughter's birth mother was having another baby girl. Again, we wanted to keep these kids together as much as we could. Without any hesitation we decided to add our youngest daughter (Sydney) to our family.
Our kids now range in age from 7 all the way up to 23. Our two oldest are now grown and gone. We are very proud of our two sons. Our oldest serves in the Army and our second oldest serves in the Marines.
We started our forever family many years ago and like any family have had our ups and downs. Luckily, our ups outweigh our downs. We would not have changed our decision to build a family for anything in this world.
Overall, our adoption experience was very positive. We had an amazing social worker with the Dept. of Children and Families who helped us through each of our adoption experiences. We are forever thankful for her commitment to our family. Each adoption had it's challenges but with a commitment to family it was nothing that we couldn't overcome.
How have you tackled the challenge of explaining anti-gay sentiments to your children?
As a couple and family, we have never directly been a target of anti-gay sentiments. I think that because we are so open as a family, it was made it that much easier as a family. We are also very open about what we discuss with our kids. When we see anti-gay news stories that come up on television we just discuss how some people might be scared of change and have a hard time accepting. We never respond to hateful comments with other hateful comments.
The biggest question that goes around our family now is regarding same sex marriage. Our kids question and don't understand why there is such a big issue regarding homosexual people getting married. It is something that they see as normal because of their parents. According to our youngest son, "They just need to get over it and let everyone be happy no matter where you live in the country."
What makes your proudest of your family?
The thing that makes us the proudest is how our kids view their family. They are very open to their friends about their family. They have never tried to hide who their family is or who their parents are. Whenever someone asks about where a mom is, the kids say that she could take care of them and that they have two dads. Often they will say, "Isn't two dads better than one?" You have to love how kids think!
Tell us your thoughts on the importance of adoption and how accessible it is for same sex families.
Michael and I are currently working as Parent Advocates for an amazing organization called RaiseAChild. This organization actively recruits LGBT individuals and couples so that they can be potential adoptive or foster parents. The organization just launched a new adoption campaign for the month of November as it coincides with National Adoption Month. They will also be having events in the months of November & December so that the LGBT community can get information and possibly start the journey towards fostering and adoption. Last years campaign was focused in the Los Angeles area where this years campaign is focusing on Oakland, Orange County, Los Angeles and New York City. You can view more about this amazing organization at www.RaiseAChild.us
You can see a few beautiful photos of Jason and Michael's beautiful family below. To see more families and learn how to share your own, scroll to the bottom.
The Cook-Troynel Family
REMINDER: If you'd like your own family featured on a Family Friday, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember that family is what we make it, so if your family is you and the pack of LGBT folks who you'd go to the mats for, send them over. We want to see them, too.