By Henry Amador:
So we began our MAPP classes this past August 26th, 2014.
MAPP being the State-required class to license as a Foster or Adoptive parent, Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting.
In part one I shared how my husband and I were a part of a very special group when we licensed in our old home State of Florida.
We were a part of the State’s first all (openly) gay and lesbian.
Going into this again here in our new State of North Carolina had us curious.
How would this class look?
How welcomed might we feel?
How diverse would it be?
We arrived and entered the big board room that would be our home twice a week, and the occasional Saturday, for the next six weeks.
There were hand written name tags placed around the large table. We quickly found ours and got comfy.
As other families began to arrive we found ourselves as happy as could be to see a gay couple enter and find there place directly across from us. They looked pretty happy to see us as well.
Many more families entered and soon the room was full of inquisitive whispering and curious gazes. It only took a moment for me to notice that more than one woman (it’s always the ladies that pick up on these types of things first) realized that there were two gay couples in the room.
You see them back up ever so slightly to whisper in the unaware husband’s ear.
You see the unexpected men glance around, shrug their shoulders and usually drop their heads back down towards their phones.
The door opened again and in came our facilitator, a lovely woman, a busy woman.
She was carrying one too many bags or books, or sets of keys, or something enough to make her look like it could all tumble at any given moment.
Before she got the chance to introduce herself we were joined by a final couple, a lesbian couple.
I think I said a loud ”YES!” and I think I said it in my head, to myself, but by the way my husband smacked my leg under the table I’d guess I thought wrong.
I was just so happy to see three of our own types of families represented.
Opening count, 10 families, with three of them same gendered. Cool right?
We spent the class doing the usual first class things, deciding on our class rules, punctuality, respect, staying on target, fun things like that.
We weren’t asked to introduce ourselves in the traditional, “I’m Henry and this is my husband Joel,” kind of way.
Instead it was handled by splitting us up into groups for ten minutes to get to know one another, we were then asked to introduce one of the other participants we had just met to the group.
True, but I love to get the ”this is my husband thing” out of the way pretty darn quickly,
I am put more at ease that way, like pulling off a band-aide, it’s quick, kind of scary, stings for a second and then it’s over.
During class, as a piece for an exercise we were going into about loss and grieving, the facilitator asked if any if us had kids, we quickly raised our hands.
She called upon us and asked if we had a photo, do we have a photo? We replied, ”Thousands!”
Anyway, she wanted us to open one up and to pass our phone around.
I chose a beautiful picture of our family, the three of us, not that we don’t have an abundance of photos of him alone but I felt the importance of the moment and the opportunity to put our family out there.
As the phone was passed from one hand to the next, as it was seen by all the people in that class, including our leader, we were suddenly all so visible and concrete and real and all the things make me happy.
I’m not sure if that comes from my struggle for recognition and equality but I can tell you that being clear and visible is extremely important to me.
By class two one of the straight couples had backed out.
By class three yet another straight couple was gone and in class four, yet another.
There are now seven families on the journey to parenthood and three of them is same sexed.
You might ask why people drop out?
Well these classes are not pretty, the States design them to be ugly.
They spend a lot of time and effort explaining how difficult the world of Foster-care is and they want the folks who are eager to adopt via the state to understand how fragile and hurt some of these children can be.
Many of these poor children that have found themselves thrust into the system have indeed been subjected to things that no one should have to experience, many have been abuse, neglected, and worse.
Some people are thrown off by that.
They want children, yes, and for some reason they have been drawn to this idea or method of having a child, of growing their family.
But when this dark, murky reality is introduced to them they begin to question whether this road is their road and for many, it’s just not.
And that’s what the State wants, it wants to rear the not so wonderful head of the Foster-care system and it wants to shake that monster hard enough that it shakes off all the ones that are not ready for that type of commitment, the ones that don’t have a strong enough grip to hang on.
Will they shake the gay folks off?
I doubt it.
It’s important for me to share that out of all the same sexed couples in my Florida MAPP class, ALL but one family now have children, ALL but one.
We know what struggle and pain is,
We know how to roll up a sleeve and dig ourselves in for the long haul.
We don’t give up easily, and we know that in order to create our families we will have to not only open our hearts and our arms but we will need to open our minds as well.
Shake away State, shake away,
I have a feeling we three gay families are hanging in there.
We not going anywhere anytime soon, at least not without our kids.
Photo by Beau Rogers