With much anticipation they went on their first date eight years ago, just as millions of couples do when they are searching for a spouse, a companion, a friend. During their date one mentioned he wanted to buy a home and marry; the other mentioned he wanted to adopt children. Both realized the long quest had finally come to an end as they faced the man whom they would marry. Arturo and Dave married two years later.
In Summer ‘06 they marched at San Francisco Gay Pride. At the festival, which always follows the parade, they visited the booth of an adoption agency, Family Builders. Arturo and Dave collected all their information and brought it home. They began gathering and sending to the agency all the documentation required of them. It seemed an endless task of paperwork and course-taking – only their drive and determination gave them the strength to continue. Arturo’s youngest brother once told him, “Wow…you have to do all that work to give a child a good home? Sad how irresponsible parents create life through a few minutes of passion and pleasure, if that, but you guys have to spend 18 months getting ready for it…unfair if you ask me!”
Their determination never wavered. By October 2007 Arturo and Dave were approved to become Fost-Adopt parents (foster a child who is open to adoption). They first found a 16 year-old gay boy, but another couple got Rudy. Then they found Zac and their hearts were lost. He had been in foster care for four years. His birth parents were out of the picture. He had two sisters, one already in a good fost-adopt home; the other, sadly, bouncing from one group home to another, and running away in between. Zac was eleven, “non-adoptable” as he called himself. He suffered from some behavioral issues that had landed him in thirteen foster homes in four years. He had attended just as many elementary schools by fifth grade. “Zac is a challenge…we fear he may be far too much for you to handle…he can break you,” his social worker told them. Yet all to no avail. Arturo and Dave had lost their heart to him.
They were concerned, very concerned about the reaction they would get from their respective families. Dave’s parents hailed from the Midwest and are deeply religious. Arturo’s parents live in Latin America and have never truly come to terms with their eldest son’s sexuality. When told about Dave’s plans, his father replied, “Son, you need to give this child a safe and loving home…and you can do that, we are so proud of you.” Arturo’s parents were lukewarm at best, yet with the passage of time they have come to love their son’s child.
Zac moved into their home in February 2008. The first six months were tough. The second half-year was even tougher. Zac could not believe that these adults were not child abusers, like most other adults he had met before. As rotten as he was, their reaction was to give him more love, with consequences, but love nonetheless. At school he began improving; at home he became a shining light.
All along, Zac was seen by a therapist twice a week – his parents had weekly meetings with their own therapist, while seeing Zac’s once a month. It has been a heavy schedule of therapy sessions for over two years. Therapy, in fact, became part of the family’s weekly routine, just as taking Zac to soccer and judo, or going to get freshly baked bread every Saturday morning. As weeks turned into months that turned into years, Zac improved enough for his parents to bring to him their wish to adopt again. That fateful talk happened on Christmas day – Zac’s reaction, “Oh yes, I want a brother…we need to spice up this house and get more younger people in it!” This comment was followed by one of the most amazing statements Zac’s ever made, “and besides, guys…we need to save another kid, just like you saved me…so let’s do it!”
Paperwork, once again, began in earnest.
In the meantime a boy from Cochran, Georgia, made the news. He asked his school for permission to bring his boyfriend to Prom. After some dithering, the principal relented. The teenager gave an interview to a local news outlet; his parents punished him by throwing Derrick out of the family home. Dave saw the news report and showed it to Arturo, who could not resist and found Derrick on facebook. Within days Arturo and Derrick were talking on the phone. Arturo and Dave offered their complete support, both emotional and financial. The weeks leading up to Prom were tough, no doubt. Yet, as was the case with Zac, Arturo and Dave became “parents” to Derrick. For Prom Arturo flew to Georgia and drove Derrick and his boyfriend to Prom. The bond that was built between the adult and the teenager became stronger as weeks turned into months.
When Summer arrived Derrick, with his boyfriend in tow, flew to San Francisco, California, where Arturo and Dave offered him a safe and loving home, and his own bedroom to boot. Since his arrival Derrick has been bonding not only with his gay “soul parents,” but also with his spitfire of a kid brother Zac. It has not been a bed of roses by any means. Their story has not reached a “happily-ever-after” end yet. However, they are all working toward a goal that provides this expanding family with a safe space where all needs are tended to, while comfort in each other’s company settles in.
In the meantime, Arturo and Dave continue submitting paperwork to find Zac and Derrick a younger brother. Zac, when asked about the family’s recent addition, said “I now have an older brother…he is best…likes video games and I pay attention to what he tells me to do…he is a role model to me…but I also want a younger brother, closer to my age because Derrick is off to college in a few months and I must become a role model like him.”
Life continues for this foursome. It comes one day at a time. But what unites them is a sense of family; a deep-rooted conviction that the adults are doing the right thing for the kids whose birth parents tried their best, although it was not good enough. Dave and Arturo do not see their actions as anything other than what adults ought to do for children. They realize that families come in all shapes…although Zac still wonders why he came out as white as Daddio, and not as tanned as Dad!