In this week’s Huffington Post Gay Voices RaiseAChild.US “Let Love Define Family™” series, we explore the journey of two men -- one who adopted as a single parent and the other who joined him to create a blended family.
When Daniel Nelms, 48, began his journey to parenthood six years ago as a single man, he considered his many options.
“Being in a delivery room or having a newborn was never important to me. Providing a safe landing and creating a family were my priorities,” explained Daniel. “I did have contact with one expectant birth mother and after a couple of months I realized private adoption was not for me.”
He chose to pursue adoption through the foster care system and found a warm welcome at Southern California Foster Family and Adoption Agency, which embraced him both as single and as gay.
“I was in my early 40s and assumed I wasn’t going to meet anyone I wanted to raise children with, so I figured I would just do it before it was too late. I didn’t know how crazy I was for doing it until after it was done!” he laughed.
Daniel, who owns an addiction treatment program in Beverly Hills, Calif., said the nine-month certification process of taking courses and completing the home study and other requirements gave him an opportunity to broaden his parameters for the type of child he wanted to adopt.
“The great part is that the longer the process took and the more information I got, the more open I became to different types of children,” Daniel said. “I had been open to any gender or race, but now I was open to a wider range of ages, as well as a sibling set.”
Brothers Chip, 8, and Rocco, 6, were ages 3 and 1 when they were placed with Daniel. Because they were fast-tracked for adoption, the court processes began immediately.
Daniel met his husband-to-be Julian, now 24, six months after the children were placed with Daniel. How did Daniel date and conduct a courtship as a single dad?
“Julian didn’t meet the kids for a year,” Daniel explained. “Julian and I met online about six months after the boys were placed with me and we saw each other once a week or a couple times a month, but it was very casual. For one thing, Julian was very young and I was not. It was not until almost a full year later that I had one of those moments where you know this is actually not casual, this is actually much more. At that point it made it really easy to decide to co-parent and get married and build a family or continue to grow the family. Once we made that leap, it was all very quick. Julian really completed our family in a way that was unexpected.”
“I was enthusiastic, but a bit naive about parenting,” said Julian, who is currently a student. “I was very excited and I think that it didn’t hit me until three or four months after we were living together that, wow, I’m an important person in these boys lives! I knew that this was a serious commitment to make and I was all ready for it.”
Daniel and Julian married two years after the boys had been placed with Daniel.
“Our first wedding was in Hollywood in 2012,” said Daniel. “It was really for the boys so they saw that this is how you build a family and marriage and what that means. When same-sex marriage became legal in California, we had a another very small wedding November 2013.”
Julian is now in the process of legally adopting the boys.
Because Daniel is white, but Julian and the boys are black, strangers often assume that Julian is the biological father. The couple is handling the issues it raises head-on.
“We’ve talked about how to talk to the kids about race quite a bit,” said Julian. “We talk white privilege and what it means to be African American in the United States. They’ve read age appropriate books about slavery. They’ve spent time with my family and Daniel’s family and it’s great. As they’re growing up, they’re going to be able to see that people are people. Yeah, there are differences between us, but at the end of the day we’re all human beings. That’s the most significant thing that they’re going to get out of it. Growing up, I really didn’t have that much exposure on an intimate and familial level with people who were white, so their experience is going to be completely different. These boys won’t have a lot of the prejudices that people grow up with because of a lack of exposure.”
Daniel, Julian and the boys moved from West Hollywood to East Los Angeles, a predominantly Latino area where the boys attend public school with a diverse student body.
Julian and Daniel’s most important tradition is family dinner.
“It’s super important, but it can be challenging to do,” Julian explained. “We were just talking tonight about how to get it up to five times a week. We’ve tried a bunch of churches but haven’t found a fit. We do movie nights and travel together and spend a lot of time with our parents.”
The boys spend a good amount of time with Julian’s family who are local in Los Angeles and visit frequently with Daniel’s family in Northern California.
Julian’s mother, Sharon Spears, has high praise for Julian and Daniel. “They are remarkable parents,” she proudly said. And she is delighted to spend time with her grandchildren.
“My grandkids remind me of Julian and his brother when they were little,” she said. “We’re going on a little cruise soon, just me and the boys. I have a lot of fun with them!”
Daniel encourages prospective parents to take the leap, and pursue their dreams. “Go in with open minds and let the process happen,” he said. “It’s as if my heart has been cracked open. I discovered a tremendous amount of love that I never knew I was capable of.”
Corinne Lightweaver is the Communications Manager at RaiseAChild.US, a national organization headquartered in Hollywood, California that encourages the LGBT community to build families through fostering and adopting to serve the needs of the 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. Since 2011, RaiseAChild.US has run media campaigns and events to educate prospective parents and the public, and has engaged more than 2,200 prospective parents. For information about how you can become a foster or fost/adopt parent, visit www.RaiseAChild.US.