It became very clear after I first met Daniel that we would become parents at some point in our relationship. We also knew we would get married, and after he sponsored me as his interdependent partner and I moved to Australia in 2001, we figured it was just a matter of time. We’re still waiting. But that’s a topic for another post.
We looked at surrogacy, single parent adoption, arrangements with lesbian fiends to co-parent… And finally discovered long-term foster care. We knew there were children in our country – and as it turns out in our city, only suburbs away -who already existed, but were in a situation where their parents couldn’t take care of them. Our Catholic instincts kicked in and we were on our way.
We have been thrilled to be the carers of our two boys (now young men) for the past nine years, and their adoptive parents for four years. But it has not been without hurdles. We have faced many questions, from friends, family members, and of course total strangers.
There are all sorts of different families in Australia, and we all have our stories. However, sometimes, we don’t want to have to keep explaining ten times a day. So, hopefully, the following information can help some of you understand.
10. Gay people can adopt in Australia?
This is a tricky one. Yes, in some states. In NSW, the Adoption Amendment Act of 2009 made it possible for gay people to adopt as a couple, in a bill sponsored by independent Clover Moore. This passed quietly on a Sunday evening as we were driving from my sister-in-laws house in Wollongong on our way to Sydney. The kids were sleeping, and we could not believe it was true. Currently, it is legal in SA, WA, Victoria, Tasmania and ACT as well. In all states, gay people can adopt as single-parent adoptions, but this is often given a lower priority than couple adoptions.
9. So are you more like the family on Modern Family, or those blokes on House Husbands?
Uh, neither, but if it helps you to put it into context…
Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family adopted from overseas, so that differentiates us, since ours was an in country adoption.
My understanding of House Husbands, and I don’t watch the show, is that Kane was in some sort of formal or informal kinship caring relationship with his neice, so that’s similar-ish.
We were foster carers, then adoptive parents. This means we had no pre-existing relationship with our kids or their birth parents before they came into our care. In fact, they were wards of the state. By living with us, they were able to live together as brothers in a healthy and supportive environment.
8. Wait, your kids are Australian? Are they Aboriginal?
Stop right there. Don’t be a racist.
This one surprises me the most. Because we always lived in the middle of a metropolitan city, in a multicultural neighbourhood made up of Australians from all different ancestral backgrounds.
I’ll skip the Aboriginal question, because, it’s 2016 and you should be ashamed of your inherent and ingrained opinions of Indigenous Australians. That’s also a topic for another post.
But, yes. They are Australian. Sadly, in 2014 over 40,000 children lived in out-of-home care in Australia. I can’t imagine the number has changed dramatically since then, but let’s hope there is a trend toward fewer, though I doubt it.
7. So were their parents drug addicts?
First of all, it is not your business, and that is their story to tell, and it’s incredibly insensitive to ask. Do you live with your parents? If not, is it because they are drug addicts?
Children come into out-of-home care for many reasons. You probably have a friend that was in out-of-home care at some part of their childhood and you don’t know it. Some parents have mental health issues. Some parents go to jail. Some parents suffer a major physical or mental trauma, and are not able to care for their children for a period of time. I don’t know the statistics, but I’d imagine it’s a low percentage of kids in out-of-home care who are the children of drug addicts. I see kids with junkies around Sydney all the time.
6. Don’t you feel guilty that you took them away from their birth parents?
WHAT? Did you really just ask that? No.
Children are not put into foster care for no reason. They are removed from a dangerous home situation after involvement from schools, community workers, the police, often other relatives who see that the parents are not coping, and a multitude of others. Most of the time, laws are broken. These children are suffering and their welfare is being neglected. Sometimes, they are not being bathed, fed, or even given a bed to sleep in. It’s a desperate situation. So, I am thrilled our kids were removed from harm.
Similarly, we did not take them away from their birth parents. FaCS intervened, the police removed them and they became wards of the state. Then a court order was made, which we were not involved in, in which it was decided they should be put into long term foster care. We were the state appointed carers who they were placed with. We had no previous knowledge of their birth family before we became carers. We were doing the job we were assigned to do.
5. But don’t they need a mother, or a female influence?
Again, that question is irrelevant. They have a mother. We can never replace her. We are two fathers. Who have had to be father and mother, stern and soft, spoiler and disciplinarian.
Sadly, many children are brought up without a mother. My best friend died of cancer two years ago, leaving her teenaged sons to be brought up by their father. Our boys “motherless” upbringing is not unusual. Nor is having two fathers. Many of the boys classmates have two fathers, one natural and one step. Or they have a donor dad, or a dad they haven’t seen since their parents divorce, etc. Our kids are lucky – they have two.
We are surrounded by a village of beautiful, caring women in our suburb. Neighbours, school mates’ mums, coaches, aunties, adult friends, workmates – so many wonderful women who care about and for our children. They have plenty of female influence, as do we.
4. They must be bullied at school for having two dads, right?
Unless our kids are incredible liars, no. They have gone to public school. They have gone to Catholic school. One child attended a very prestigious all-boys private school. And they have never reported being bullied for having two dads. We must seem like nags the amount of times we have asked if they are ok, or experiencing peer instigated discrimination.
But let’s be real, as well. They don’t go around announcing to one and all, I have two dads! It usually comes up in a natural way. “Who’s that guy that picked you up? I thought your dad usually picks you up?” “Oh, that’s my other dad.” Most kids take that information and shrug it off. Two dads. Ok. As I said before, step-dads, uncles, guardians, mannies – many kids have more than one parent who picks them up or drops them off to school.
3. So, are either of your kids gay?
Are any of your kids gay? Or straight? When was the last time you asked them. They are teenagers. They have had girlfriends. They have friends who are boys. I don’t make it a practice of asking is they are gay or straight, but think they both identify as straight. I did too when I was a teenager. I didn’t work out my same-sex attraction until I was 18. Give them time. They will let us know. Best of all, they know they are in a safe environment to discuss their sexuality, however they end up identifying.
Are we brainwashing them to be gay? Do straight people brainwash their children to be straight? If they do, it doesn’t work, as the millions of gay and lesbian people around the world will attest to.
2. But don’t you think it’s a bit perverse to expose them to a homosexual lifestyle?
No. Is it perverse to expose children to a heterosexual lifestyle? Daniel and I kiss each other when we get home from work, before bed, in the morning at breakfast. And we hug and kiss our children too. Though, I’ve never been comfortable kissing the boys on the mouth. Honestly, when I see parents kissing their children on the mouth, whether same sex or opposite sex pairings, I’ve often felt a little uncomfortable. Mouth kissing is reserved for my husband. Hugging, back scratching, kisses on foreheads, cheeks, top of the head – all things I do with my kids.
1.But still, it must be particularly hard for kids of non-traditional families like yours?
Listen, I think being a teenager is hard, regardless of whom your parents are. As far as our family being non-traditional, says who? You? Stop imposing your views on my family. I don’t try to tell you how to live your life. Give me the same respect.
The more we share our experiences as parents, the more we can help our kids negotiate their way through this wild, crazy thing called life. Let’s continue to have respectful conversations, and learn to understand each other.
But if you continue denigrating me and my family, don’t be surprised if I reject your Facebook request. I’m looking for friends who are friendly. No offence.