Blog of Rights

One Christmas Wish

By Martin Gill at 10:03am

(Originally posted on Pam's House Blend.)

Two weeks before Christmas in 2004, my partner and I got a call from the Department of Children and Families, asking us to take in two foster children. Although we'd taken in other kids in the past, this time I said no because we were planning to move to Georgia, and I didn't want to take in kids if they'd have to be uprooted again because of our move.

The social worker said they just needed a place for about a month, because a family member had agreed to take them.  I still said no. She said we were the only home in the agency with any space left.  Then she said, "I bet you could give them a really nice Christmas."

I knew she was right; we could give them a great Christmas. The story of Joseph and Mary being turned away from the inn flashed through my mind. For us, Christmas had never been a time to turn away those in need, and I really hated the thought that these two might have to spend Christmas in a shelter.

They arrived two hours later, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.  Even those were tattered and dirty --  a shirt way too big and shoes four sizes too small.

On Christmas day, we had 20 people over for dinner. By that evening, our guests had filled the kids' closet and their dressers with new clothes.  We made the playpen into a makeshift toy box that was overflowing with new toys.

What was supposed to be a temporary placement in 2004 is now a big part of what we call our family. Because of these boys, we sold the house in Georgia and made the choice to stay here in Miami. This will be our sixth Christmas with these two amazing boys. They came to us in need, but in return have given our family so much joy and happiness!

Although the state begged us to take in our two boys, there is a Florida law that bars gay people like us from being able to adopt them and give them the stability, permanency and legal protections that only come with adoption.  With the help of the ACLU, we are challenging that law.  On November 26, 2008, a Miami family court judge ruled that the law is unconstitutional and granted me adoptions for the two boys.  But that decision has been appealed and is now pending before an intermediate state appeals court.

While we are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the case and eager to put it behind us, we feel truly blessed and thankful for our family, for our health, and for our jobs in this time of recession.  Because we have been so blessed, for the second year in a row we have decided to put an emphasis on helping others in need. So my partner and I have been volunteering with Angels Everywhere, a group from our church (Unity on the Bay), to put on our second annual Christmas party for teens in group homes.

These teens have ended up in group homes with little chance of being adopted.  These are teens who have been through so many foster homes, that the state has decided they would have more stability in a group home. They have no parents there -- just employees who work their shifts to supervise them.

In the eight Christmases we have been foster parents, we have been at a number of toy giveaways. The little kids get some great toys. But at those same toy giveaways we have seen teens walk away empty handed or with toys that were meant for someone much younger.

The problem is that most toys that are donated are for younger kids. Most people simply don't realize that there are adolescents and teens in need too.  I know we never did until we became foster parents.

So again this year, my partner has worked with the social workers at our foster agency to develop a list of gifts tailored especially for the teens there. Our three kids will be Santa's helpers, giving out the gifts, in hopes that they too can learn the joy of giving.

If you are planning to donate toys to a local charity, please keep in mind that adolescents and teens need a little Christmas too.

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