How Jonathan & Franco Navigated Interstate Adoption to Bring Home Their Baby Girl
Our story is long and complicated and took place prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. After completing all requirements to adopt a child (i.e. background checks, home studies, etc.) we learned of a mother in Utah who was 6 weeks away from giving birth. We connected and she picked us to adopt her baby girl. Unfortunately, our adoption attorney, agency and social case worker informed us "this will never happen for you in Utah...of all the states Utah is the toughest for gay adoptions."
The law in Utah stated no single couple living together could adopt. In order to meet this requirement, I had my domestic partner, Franco move out. Unfortunately, our attorney and case worker refused to work with us. They felt we were deceiving the courts. We proceeded without their help! This required starting over — new background checks, new financial reviews, and a new home study to meet the requirements as an individual vs. couple. My partner literally moved out of our home. We had 6 weeks before the due date or so we thought — Sydney decided to come into the world three weeks early.
We literally flew to Salt Lake City, UT without legal representation, and our home study hadn't been performed — basically we were screwed! I recall saying to Franco, it'll be only by the grace of God if we come home with this child. By the way, her middle name is Grace because of that statement.
When we arrive and see our daughter for the first time, tears flow down our faces! She’s beautiful! Franco (my husband) is a licensed attorney. He immediately reaches out to LAMBDA for legal help. They put us in contact with a local attorney. She initially agrees to represent us; however, admits she's never had a case like ours and doesn't think we'll be successful. Two days later she calls and drops us, citing the legal environment for gay adoptions. Now we've been dropped by two attorneys.
While Franco is working to find an attorney, I'm working with a new case manager to get the home study done and all the other requirements. Franco finds a third attorney, but she's at a conference in Vegas and will not be back for 5 days. The hospital is ready to release the baby after 24 hours. We're in panic mode, stress is off the chart!
To solve the immediate problem, Franco became my attorney — he explained to hospital representatives that the adoption would be occurring in Texas and the state requires a 48-hour waiting period for the mother. The hospital agrees to allow the baby to stay an additional 24 hours. Franco gets copies of all the legal papers necessary to grant us temporary guardianship of Sydney. The next day paperwork is signed by both mother and father and witnessed by hospital representatives.
Now we wait, because two states will be involved we are required to file with the Interstate Compact of the Placement of Children (ICPC). This is when Utah would review my paperwork and either approved it or not. If approved, the file moves to Texas and is reviewed as well. Either state can deny the transfer! Our attorney from Vegas is finally back in town. She helps with filing all forms — this is also her first time handling a file like ours and she isn't optimistic we'll be successful.
The hurdle we worried the most about, getting Utah's approval, goes off without a hitch. The paperwork is forwarded to Texas for approval. We wait 10 long days in a hotel with a new born...still no word. Against the advice of our attorney, I finally call the State myself. I learn Texas has a problem, Franco's name has shown up on the mortgage. They want to know who he is and does he live at the residence. As I hear her asking these questions, I immediately have tears flowing down my face, it's over, they’re not going to lets us have Sydney. If I tell her the truth, will see be obligated to inform the Utah representative.
Through tears, I explain to the clerk the truth: yes, Franco does live with me and that we desperately want to adopt this little girl. I further explained we were simply trying to meet the requirements set forth by the state of Utah. She said that's a problem, because I'll need a background check on him. I smiled and said I actually have that (recall we had completed everything initially as a couple). I remember her in her southern accent saying, "honey just send it to me and we'll get you guys home with that new baby girl!"
Once home, a new attorney is necessary to help with the adoption in the state of Texas. Again, we worked through LAMBDA and found a firm in Houston. Upon the advice, they were not comfortable with any of the courts in our geographical area. They explained it’s the judges’ sole decision to grant the adoption. So, we drive 5 hours to San Antonio and meet with a specific judge who is "gay friendly." He allows us to adopt Sydney.
Allowing state laws to exclude potential adoptive and foster parents because of their marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity is not in the best interests of the child and reduces access to permanent, loving homes for these children. This aligns with the basic humanist principles such as fairness and compassion, and with empirical evidence: research clearly shows that children benefit most from being in a loving home with two parents, regardless of their sexual orientation or technical marital status.
I do believe religious organizations have the right to set up and offer adoption and foster services, but they do not have the right to offer government-funded services according to their religious convictions. Religious organizations are not compelled to accept public funds; however, if they do, they must play by the same rules as other organizations that receive taxpayer money. Religious convictions must never be subsidized by taxpayers.