Huffington Post Gay Voices and RaiseAChild.US are collaborating in an 10-part “Let Love Define Family” series for November’s National Adoption Month. Each series installment will introduce you to another aspect of fostering and adoption. Together we will meet foster youth, hear from culturally competent foster and adoption agency leaders, chat with cast members from the ABC Family television series “The Fosters,” and celebrate LGBT parents and the successful and healthy families they create across the United States. -- Jason Cook, RaiseAChild.US
Chicago residents Glen Barker, 53, a self-employed real estate investor, and Anthony Zumpano, 51, a creative director, are the adoptive parents of a 12-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl. The family loves to swim and goes to water parks frequently. During the summer, they head to the beach and pools almost weekly. For Glen and Tony, the foster to adoption experience was different with each child. RaiseAChild.US interviewed Glen to learn more about their experiences as a gay couple adopting.
How did you and Tony meet? What made you decide to start a family together?
We met at a bar on a Sunday evening. We were both out with a group of friends. I saw Tony in the distance and decided to talk to him, which is something I rarely do. When he was about to leave I asked him to drop me off at my house, which is something he wouldn't usually do. We exchanged numbers and 18 years later, here we are.
I knew from my late teens that I wanted to have children, but I never had the opportunity to pursue it. When Tony and I got together, we decided to start the adoption process.
How was your adoption experience? Did you encounter any obstacles in the process because you're an LGBT family?
Our adoption experience for the most part was positive. Most of the caseworkers I spoke with (from all over the country) were courteous and caring. During our journey there were children whom the workers were interested in placing with us and we passed on the children. Likewise, there were workers who chose other adoptive parents over us for whatever reasons. Ultimately, we were selected as the adoptive parents for a young boy from one of the western states. That state flew us out for a weekend and we returned back to Chicago the same weekend with our son at our side.
Unfortunately, a department official found out that this young boy went to live with a gay couple in Chicago and demanded his return. They even purchased a one-way airline ticket for him. Our agency, Little City Foundation, worked within the system and passionately advocated for us. Thankfully this was all done without my or Tony’s knowledge. I would have freaked out and been a nervous wreck. That state relented and we adopted Ashton. Funny thing: department officials from that state have since contact us multiple times about adopting other of their state's children.
You seem to have such a great relationship with Little City. What has made that relationship so strong?
The relationship we have with Little City Foundation is good. Little City is committed to working with, encouraging, and supporting the LGBT community in their adoption/fostering efforts.
Tell us about your children.
Our son, Ashton, came to us at the age of 2 1/2. He had been in 15 placements prior to us getting him. Ashton’s adoption was finalized approximately one year after he arrived with us. He is now 12 and in the 7th grade. Ashton is in Boy Scouts and likes camping and doing various activities with them. As with most pre-teens, he loves video games and computer-related activities. During the summer he plays baseball.
Our daughter, Kayla, came to us at 3 1/2 months old through Little City. Her goal was reunification with her birth parents. The birth parents were unable to do what was required of them. Kayla’s mom voluntarily gave up her rights specifically to me and the dad’s rights were terminated by the state. I believe her adoption was finalized when she was about 2 1/2 years old. Kayla is “all” girl. She loves dressing up, make up, high heels, etc. She loves to draw, socialize with her friends, and play music. Kayla is currently 9 years old and in the 4th grade.
What makes you proudest of your family?
What makes us proudest of our family is we unconditionally love each other. There are many times we fight and may not "like" each other. The love we have for one another is there and we tell each other that they are loved.
How has your extended family embraced your family and your relationship? Have there been any struggles?
My family, I believe, has accepted the relationship that Tony and I share. I am sure that not all family members may agree with our relationship but their actions at least do not show it. Both the immediate and extended family members have been welcoming and loving to us. Not all of the family agreed with us adopting. We basically agree to disagree on the subject. Gladly, though, the family all love and respect the children and our family unit.
Share with us anything you'd like to say to other LGBT couples considering adoption.
I would greatly encourage any LGBT person or couples not to “wait for the right time,” but to follow your heart and pursue adoption. There are many children in need of loving homes and if it is a real desire of your heart to have children then you will more than likely make a great parent.
RaiseAChild.US focuses on recruitment of the LGBT community and offers free parent advocate services. How do you think these services would benefit a new family just starting the process?
I believe the services of RaiseAChild.US would be extremely helpful to both current LGBT parents and those looking to adopt. Many people do not know where to turn to for information or guidance. RaiseAChild.US would be a great resource to fill this gap. Those LGBT individuals who may live in less supportive environments or have fewer resources available to them would benefit even more.
Jason Cook is the Parent Advocate at RaiseAChild.US, a nonprofit organization that believes all children deserve a safe, loving, and permanent home. We educate and encourage the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adoption to answer the needs of the 400,000 children in our nation's foster care system. RaiseAChild works with foster and adoption agencies that have received training in LGBT cultural competence through the Human Right’s Campaign Foundation’s “All Children – All Families” initiative [link: http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/all-children-all-families-about-the-initiative] and received its Seal of Recognition. RaiseAChild’s National Adoption Month campaign includes special events for prospective parents in Chicago (November 18), Los Angeles (November 20), Kansas City (November 21), New York City (December 3), and San Francisco (December 5). To RSVP, visit www.raiseachild.us or email email@example.com.