This week’s Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US Let Love Define Family installment introduces the Long-Cline family of Long Island, New York. Chris and Paul adore the three boys they have adopted from the foster care system and feel blessed to have provided short-term care for other foster children as well. Through sharing their story, they hope to inspire others to do the same. -- Corinne Lightweaver, Special Projects Manager, RaiseAChild.US
On a typical summer weekend in a densely populated section of Long Island, NY, just a few miles away from New York City, the Cline-Long family enjoyed a typical afternoon poolside in the family’s spacious backyard along with a group of neighborhood friends and schoolmates. Thirteen-year-old Daniel lounged in the sun with a lemonade while his younger brother Alex, age 12, practiced his dives as he hollers, “Look at me!” And six-year-old Jonathan stopped playing hoops long enough to engage in a round of Marco Polo with his young friends. During the winter, the kids play Wii and Nintendo or head to the local arcade.
“Our home tends to be the place where many of the kids congregate,” said their dad, Christopher Long, as he surveyed the kids with a smile that revealed his satisfaction with the family he’s always dreamed of. Getting to this point has been a long road for 44-year-old Chris and his partner Paul Cline, age 41.
Chris, who came from a sibling set of six, always knew he wanted a large family. When he met Paul, who had four siblings, ten years ago he found someone with similar dreams. They explored all of their family building options before settling on foster/adopt.
“Many people in my life both personally and professionally had advised me against the foster care adoption route,” explained Chris. “They said many children in foster care were high-need and complicated and suggested that might not be a road I’d be interested in traveling.”
But the discouragement merely piqued Chris’ interest more.
“Typically when somebody tells me not to do something, I always explore the possibility with even greater enthusiasm,” he said.
Even though Chris was a senior level administrator at a local health and human services organization, he was surprised to discover how much there was to learn about the foster care situation. When he and Paul heard that there were more than 12,000 foster children in New York City alone, with thousands of children in the surrounding suburbs, they knew this would be the route to parenthood that they would choose.
The couple took their first training course (known as a PS-MAPP class) with New York Coalition on Adoptable Children ten years ago. In addition to the three boys they’ve adopted through the foster care system, they’ve also provided respite care and short-term care for many other children until they could be reunited with biological relatives. To their delight, the family has been able to stay in touch with some of the children and two children who are now adults often return for their Christmas parties.
All three boys have their own Persian cats, a conciliatory solution to Jonathan’s allergy since Persians produce low allergen. The pampered felines -- Henry, Charlie and Oscar -- cuddle up near the fireplace or roam the two-story, colonial-style house.
Naturally, the boys came with their own challenges -- the difficulties that typically bring children into care -- but all three have flourished. The older two, who arrived with special education labels, are now both on the honor roll. Chris credits their success to their tenacity and determination.
“Daniel has a heart of gold,” says Chris. “He wants nothing more than to be a police officer, and we will do whatever we can to support him. Our middle boy Alexander is very dynamic, animated, and extroverted. There’s no way you can be in a room without knowing Alex is there, too.”
Chris characterizes six-year-old Jonathan, who joined the family when he was a baby, as a “ladies’ man” who enjoys the attention of his four aunts and many family friends. Jonathan enjoys basketball and spending time with his many friends.
The couple calls themselves fortunate that Paul was able to become a stay-at-home dad, leaving behind a banking career, at least temporarily, when their first son joined the family. Their neighbors and the schools have been very supportive, and their sons proudly invite their two dads courtside for basketball games.
Chris says he hopes that sharing his story will inspire other people to build their own families through foster/adoption.
“I cannot imagine my life without my children,” he said. “Our dreams have become a reality by building our family.”
“We’re not even opposed to the idea of expanding our family,” he added with a chuckle. “Even though we have three children, four is not really outside the realm of possibility!”
RaiseAChild.US is a national organization headquartered in Hollywood, California that encourages the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adoption to serve the needs of the 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. RaiseAChild.US works with foster and adoption agencies that have received training in LGBT cultural competence through the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s “All Children – All Families” initiative. Since 2011, RaiseAChild.US has run media campaigns to educate prospective parents and the public, and has engaged more than 2,000 prospective parents. For information about how you can become a foster or foster/adopt parent, visit www.raiseachild.us and click on “Next Step."