I knew that the Gay and Lesbian Community Center had a support group for becoming a parent called Wannabe Dads and Moms. I tried to contact the person in charge of the group but never heard from him. Today I understand it wasn’t meant to happen until it was meant to be. It was a total of about 2 years when finally one day, a guy from the neighborhood that I knew from a different support group, was talking about his adopted son and how they were looking for another child. I interrupted him and asked for advice so that we could start our journey (and EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON), he mentioned the most important early step was to go to the Wannabe group! This time instead of calling I got the schedule and we went! Clearly I needed a bigger push to initiate the project and this was my push (I say God’s push!)
At our first meeting there were 2 families that had just adopted children (babies). One was a couple with their baby boy, adopted locally, and the other was a single guy who adopted a child from Guatemala. To see actual gay men with their own adopted children was a powerful experience and the statement that I remember most clearly was that if you followed through with the process there could be a 100% success rate. Peter and I were thrilled to pieces to see that our dream could become reality. And again, I was in another support group, and while people referred to the adoption paperwork as a mountain, I learned to interpret it as 1 piece of paper at a time, that is so much more manageable than a mountain!
A few months later a social worker came to talk to the group. Not having any idea what the next step was we hired her to start our home-study. We weren’t ready to proceed but we did have enthusiasm! And I loved her credentials, she had done Rosie O’Donnell’s first home-study and was on her show discussing it, that was good enough for me, (I will forever be a Rosie fan!) The home-study is necessary for the social worker to file papers with the courts stating that we are appropriate people to raise a child. Again, I am a believer in just going with the process. Not knowing what to do next, I asked for the social workers recommendation for a lawyer. She named 2, one was in NYC so I hired him.. Just take the next step in front of you I always say!
We hired that NY lawyer, but had to come up with $5,000, so we started to slow down the process. This was after the $750 for the home study (which I delayed finishing for a very long time as it has a 1 year expiration before you have to redo it. We had started to get ahead of ourselves – now I understand that our baby was not ready yet, so God was slowing us down, after all he knows best!).
The lawyer had us do wills and the “mountain” of paperwork that we had to do in addition to the home-study paperwork, got done! Imagine that! It’s all doable! Now what? The lawyer recommended a woman he had worked with who guides you on advertising in the states where the laws are more adoption friendly.
We did not feel that an agency would put a gay couple at the top of the list for prospective children so we went the route of “open adoption” where the birth parents would have contact with us leading up to the end of the process and beyond if we so wished. That means Arizona is easier than Pennsylvania as parental rights can be signed away in 3 days vs. 6 months. I could not fall in love and risk having my child taken away.
We put together a booklet of ourselves that needed to be ready to send to prospective birth parents that “sold” us as great candidates for adopting their baby. It had pictures with our nieces and nephews, our family members, etc. It was beautiful! And all true, I had 3 nieces and nephews and Peter had 5. Our lives really did revolve around family visits where we played with the nieces and nephews as often as possible, practically weekly. That is what we had as our life priority, we love kids and leaving them at night when we went home and they went to their house, was not enough.
We would spend long vacations with out extended families and even through the fighting and crying and night time wake-ups we still wanted more, we wanted a child of our own to experience ALL of the wonders of parenting!
We prepared our ad. We were artistic – code for not being regular or straight. Whomever answered the ad would hopefully not be as surprised with that code word when they found out that a same sex couple would be looking to adopt their child. I was not worried about the birth moms, I felt that there would be less rivalry with us vs.with another woman who they might view as judgemental since one in essence was giving up a baby and the other was “good enough” to take care of that baby. Just one of the thoughts in my head. We set up a Fed-ex account so we could overnight our brochure and be ready, we were told this was a competitive market and we had to be at the front of the pack, we were getting readier by the day!
Let me backtrack for a moment and tell you that originally we were living in a studio apartment on the west side of NY. We did not feel we would get approved living in a studio for adoption so we put our names on a list to move into Stuyvesant Town, a rent stabilized community on NY’s lower east side. I felt that was our only hope. We were on that list for 4 years and then got a 2 bedroom apartment and our rent doubled from $800 to $1600. It seemed like a lot at the time, but it was a great deal for Manhattan. Those 4 years on the waiting list were part of the many steps in our process to build a suitable life to bring a child into. I would like to point out that we are solidly middle-class, we are not rich, we weren’t really sure we could afford adoption or the raising of a child. But we had to try, we had to go through all the steps to see if it was doable.
I believe it was about 15 months after we had our initial home-study visit that we were finally able to place our ads across the country. We were gong to do a 2 week blitz and the cost was almost $10,000, more because I wanted to include NY and NJ, thinking it would be easier to pick our kid up locally! Little did I know we would not have a bite from that extra $1500! That’s OK, it was all part of our process.