06 Nov Meet: Tom & Rick
We met at a bar in Washington, DC, in April 2006.
Being 40ish, we dispensed with niceties fairly quickly, and soon found ourselves talking about what we did and didn’t want in a boyfriend. Smoker? No and no. Drug or other addictions? No and no. Rural, city, or suburban? City and city. Pets? Yes (Tom) and no (Rick) – we couldn’t match up on everything. And kids? Yes and yes.
That conversation didn’t mean that we were necessarily going to get together – we had just met, after all – but it was nice to know where we stood. As it turned out, we not only started dating within a week, but went on to fall in love, move in together, and get married. And, yes, have kids.
Rick had thought about kids since his 20s, when he was in the Peace Corps in Morocco, and welcomed into homes and families over the five years he served as a volunteer. Seeing how children were raised in a strong culture with deep traditions gave him a sense of how he could be a parent. Tom had grown up in a large extended family and began helping to take care of nieces and nephews when he, too, was in his 20s. Having kids was just part of what we wanted in a family.
Obviously, we were not going to let ambivalence within American culture about two men or two women raising kids together get in the way of starting a family. Comfortable with our sexuality, and active in the fight for equality, we approached having kids with the same matter-of-fact attitude.
Through reading and a class at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, we quickly grasped the various options for having kids – and quickly settled on newborn adoption. We didn’t feel the need for genetically reproducing and the cost was substantial, so we didn’t look into surrogacy.
Rick had worked overseas for several years after Peace Corps, and had thought about international adoption, but, again, the cost could be high and the process quite drawn-out – and there seemed to be plenty of opportunities to adopt right here in Columbus. Adopting children removed by Family Services from their parents was compelling, but we weren’t sure we could meet the daunting needs of foster kids nor take on responsibility for sibling groups, which would have been best to keep families as intact as possible.
Our interest in adopting a newborn led us to Adoption Circle, a non-profit agency in Columbus that’s been helping create families for over 20 years. We hit it off with the staff and appreciated their experienced and diligent approach to dealing with the complexities of working with birthparents, navigating the legal system, and supporting adoptive families after placement.
So here’s how it works. Step one: Homestudy.
Background checks, parenting classes, home inspections, medical and financial reviews, and developing a written profile with photos that birth parents can use in selecting adoptive parents for their baby.
Step two: Get matched.
Adoptions are much more open now than in the past, and giving birth parents more control over the process is a big part of that. Generally, when birth parents approach an agency, staff share with them profiles of prospective adoptive parents. Birth parents make an initial choice and provide some information about themselves and the baby; the prospective adoptive parents review the information, and if they agree to move forward, then there’s a match.
Step three: Placement.
After the baby is born and after a waiting period of a few days, the birth parents go ahead and surrender their legal status as the parents of the child, and the baby is placed with the adoptive parents.
Step four: Finalization.
Six months after placement (in Ohio – the process varies by state), the adoptive parents can go to court to finalize the adoption.
Adoption Circle warned us that the average waiting time before getting matched with a birth family was about two years (and this is indeed true), but we got lucky and it all happened pretty fast: we started putting our paperwork together in the fall of 2008; we got matched with a birth family just a couple weeks after we got approved in February 2009; and our daughter was born and came home in April 2009! We had some drama – there’s almost always drama – and we weren’t able to finalize the adoption until December, but it all went pretty smoothly.
So smoothly, in fact, that we were back in the Adoption Circle offices in the summer of 2011, ready to go for Number Two. This time, we were part of what’s called a hospital placement: Birth Mom had delivered her baby and informed the staff of her desire to make an adoption plan for her daughter. Within a day, Adoption Circle staff had met with her and she chose us from the profiles presented – and we got a call telling us that not only had we been picked, but that our daughter was already born and we could bring her home in just three days.
So here we are: Our oldest is seven and a half, a feisty second-grader; and our youngest is about to turn five. They are amazing, smart, funny girls, and we are incredibly lucky to be their dads.
As the gay parents of a transracial family, we are aware, we hope, of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as our daughters grow up and take their place in the larger society – but for now our focus is on the love, hard work, commitment, discipline, and time that it takes to raise kids. Intertwined with that is our steady awareness of, and deep, abiding appreciation for the girls’ birth families, for their care and nurturing, and for the connection we share.