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Thankful for Being a Family One Day at a Time

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November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving will always be an extra special day in our family. Just before Thanksgiving last year, a Florida family court judge declared Florida’s gay adoption ban unconstitutional and allowed me to adopt two foster kids that my partner and I have been raising for almost five years now. Even though the state quickly appealed the decision, it didn’t dampen our spirits that Thanksgiving one bit. Having the judge say what I already knew in my heart — that we were the best parents for these two boys — gave us hope that justice would ultimately prevail.

While I still have that hope, my confidence was shaken during the oral arguments before the Third District Court of Appeal in August. During the final exchange between one of the Judges and the lawyer for the state, the state made it clear that if the court allows the ban to stand, it would begin making efforts to find new homes for my sons.

Since the state urged us to take the boys into our care in 2004, this was the first time the state made it clear that it would take our kids away from the only real home they’ve ever had.

While this would obviously be devastating for them, there is a very real risk that if I can’t adopt them, they would never be adopted by anyone. While there is a huge waiting list to adopt any white baby in good health, there are a number of factors which make adoption for my boys much more difficult. They have been classified by the state as having “special needs.” They are African American, which sadly makes them much harder to place. They were both exposed to drugs before birth, and were victims of neglect.

Caseworkers have told us repeatedly that even though they are biological brothers, it is unlikely that they could be placed together. The younger of the two, who is 5, would be a better candidate for adoption. So if they split them up and offer him by himself, his chances of getting adopted would be better. The older of the two is now 9, and along with his developmental problems, they have told me he is not likely to be adopted. At his age, he could languish in foster care and be passed around from home to home. Having suffered one separation already, he might never bond with his new parents. It took him a year and a half to bond with us.

Needless to say, the state attorney’s response scared me, and it still does.

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After the arguments, my ACLU attorney Rob Rosenwald introduced me to the press by saying how courageous I am. “Courageous,” I thought to myself. At that moment “terrified” would have been a better descriptor. I don’t know if I have ever been that scared for the two little kids we have nurtured, cared for and loved for almost five years. These boys came to us traumatized and neglected and now they are happy, healthy and thoroughly bonded to all of us.

Until that day, I had convinced myself that the state would see the way the kids were thriving under our care and wouldn’t think of taking them from us. For the first time, it really hit me just how harmful this law really is.

How do you go home to your kids (and try to keep a semblance of normality) knowing they could be ripped out of our home at any time, not only split from their parents and their older brother, but from their aunts and uncles, grandmas, friends, their school, their teachers and their dog and cat.

But what affects me the most is that they could be split up, taking away the one thread of continuity that they have always known — each other.

And knowing they could be taken away, how do I go on?

Well first with faith — faith that justice will prevail, faith in our legal system, faith in humanity, and faith that our prayers will be heard.

Second, I go forward taking things one day at a time, knowing that the love that we have for our two young foster sons will somehow carry us through. I am truly thankful for each day that we have together as a family. With each day of loving, caring and nurturing these two amazing children, I hope and pray that they continue to thrive regardless of what the state has in store for them.

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