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Missouri Governor Mike Parson has signed a proclamation designating November 2021, as Adoption Awareness Month in Missouri to encourage all Missourians to educate themselves regarding the need for adoptive families and support adoptive parents in their communities.
State statute, regulation, and/or agency policy prohibits discrimination in foster care based on sexual orientation, according to Family Equality.
“As we enter the holiday season and Missourians prepare to enjoy quality time with their friends, family, and loved ones, we are reminded of the need to support the children in our state that may lack a stable home or loving family,” Governor Parson said. “Every child needs and deserves to be loved and cared for by a family of their own. This November, during Adoption Awareness Month, we encourage Missourians to consider adoption and to always support adoptive families. We must open our hearts, our homes, and our lives to these special children that ask only for a family.”
Nearly 1,600 children and youth are currently waiting and hoping to find forever homes with loving families. The Missouri Adoption Heart Gallery features profiles of some of these amazing children and youth and one Missouri family has shared their own personal adoption story.
“We appreciate all of the adoptive families who offer a loving home and a foundation of support to allow children to grow and thrive,” said Robert J. Knodell, Acting Director of the Department of Social Services. “Every child deserves a safe, permanent place to call home. There is always a need for additional adoptive families in Missouri to help ensure more children have this opportunity.”
You could potentially become an adoptive parent if you:
- Are at least 21 years of age
- Complete a child abuse/neglect check and criminal record check including fingerprints
- Are in good health, both physically and mentally
- Have a stable income
- Are willing to participate in and complete a free training and assessment process
- Are willing to voice perspectives and concerns as part of a professional team
The Department of Social Services (DSS) encourages any Missourian interested in adoption to visit the DSS website, contact their local Children's Division office, or email Moheartgallery@raisethefuture.orgfor more detailed information on Missouri’s adoption process.
To view the proclamation, click here.
In this Q&A, we hear from Alan and Carlos McMillian on what it means to be fathers of a 12-year-old son, Julian, whom they adopted from Arizona’s foster care system.
Alan and Carlos started their journey to fatherhood in 2015 by first opening their home to children in foster care, making the most of these short-term parenting opportunities. Wanting to grow their family permanently, they decided to volunteer at a Children’s Heart Gallery event in 2018.
The Children’s Heart Gallery is run by the Arizona Department of Child Safety in an effort to help children in foster care find their forever home when their birth parents’ rights are severed. There are more than 13,200 children (ages 0-18) in our state’s foster care system with more than 1,300 up for adoption. Unlike private adoption, adopting through the state costs little to no money and comes with additional assistance and resources for parents.
During the Children’s Heart Gallery event, the McMillians served as a guide for one special boy who captured their hearts. After months of team meetings, phone calls, and lots of nerves, they officially adopted their son — becoming forever fathers at last.
What does being a father mean to you?
Alan: It’s about being there for your child. There to love, support, and keep them safe. There to share knowledge and experiences. There to equip them to be their very best person.
Carlos: Being a father means giving all the things that make me good and passing them on to my kiddo, with hopes he can be even a better person than me.
Did you always want to be a father?
Alan: After becoming involved in the foster/adoption program, there were many days when I thought fatherhood wouldn’t be possible. Trying to find a potential match and getting through the selection process takes time. There were several times when we expressed interest in a child and weren’t selected, but we hung in there and ultimately entered fatherhood two years ago.
Carlos: For sure. Growing up, I never saw other families that had two dads or two moms. Everything I was taught about family had both a mother and father figure. For a long time, I couldn’t see past that. Thankfully with support from friends and family, I did.
Was there ever a time you worried fatherhood wouldn’t be possible?
Alan: I have always looked forward to being a father, but in the back of my head, I felt the timing wasn’t right. Things finally aligned, and we jumped at the opportunity.
Carlos: I did, but ever since I was young, I had hopes of having my own family — complete with kids.
What do you wish others knew about fatherhood?
Alan: Being a father is a lot of hard work — especially if you’re doing it right! But it is very rewarding, and it makes my heart beat faster every time I hear him call me “Pops!”
Carlos: If you have the opportunity to become a father, just do it. Fatherhood can be tough, and I think, as a gay man, it has its own set of unique challenges as modern values of masculinity color so many things in life. As a gay parent, we constantly have to retell the narrative our son hears at school, sometimes about what family looks like or what dad and mom are supposed to look like. Fatherhood can be heartbreaking at times but also one of the best feelings in the world! I see myself and my husband as my son’s ultimate protector.
Is there anything special you do on Father’s Day? How do you like to celebrate?
Alan: Spending the day together has been great for me. My son is always excited for Father’s Day. He puts thought into what he wants to do for us, planning ahead to ensure he has Father’s Day cards and gifts. Last year he even cooked breakfast!
Carlos: We celebrate, of course, but are still in the process of establishing traditions. Father’s Day is a strange holiday for me because I don’t feel like I need to be celebrated as a Father. I feel like we are the lucky ones to have found our son. So, I like to think of Father’s Day as a “Family Day” where we celebrate each other!
What’s your favorite thing about being a dad?
Alan: I think the best thing about being a dad is having the opportunity to guide him through life, to share adventures and make memories.
Carlos: I love our family time when it’s all of us, but I also selfishly enjoy the one-on-one time he and I get to spend together — being able to show him new experiences and seeing him smile as he experiences the world.
Scott Markley and John Bledsoe, partners for more than 10 years, are currently in the process of adopting a child after years of considering their different options. In this deeply moving account, Markley discusses the complexities of this life-changing decision and the challenges they face as gay men seeking to become parents.
By Scott Markley
Adoption is a test of love, faith, finances and patience. Choosing to adopt a child is a life altering decision for any couple. Being a same-sex couple adds unique challenges to an already complex process. Our decision to adopt took many years to come to. Adoption, specifically same-sex adoption, is more prevalent than ever before. Now, more than ever, society is beginning to understand that a family can be defined in many different ways.
From the moment we made the unified decision to adopt we knew the process would be the most challenging and rewarding of our lives. Private adoption, international adoption, closed adoption, foster care, surrogacy and open adoption were early contenders. There was no clear cut path for us to take having no prior procedural adoption knowledge. In an effort to make sense of the chaos we decided to make crucial decisions long before we ever entered into contract with an agency.
Rather than research hundreds of agencies we decided to focus on the child that would ultimately be placed with us: Would we relate with a child that would require only temporary fostering? Would we choose to match with a teenager? Would we consider transracial adoption? Would we want to know the birthparents? Could we handle a newborn? In theory, working backwards helped us narrow our search. We would ultimately decide that an infant was the best fit for us.
With our search criteria narrowed, we began to see open adoption as a great fit. Open adoption is adoption in which the birth mother/father and family knows the identity of the adoptive family. Birth parent rights are still terminated as they are with closed adoption however communication may or may not continue on a regular basis. Open adoption was once unheard of. Now it is commonplace for newborn adoptions in the United States.
Roughly three months after making the decision to adopt we made a concrete decision to pursue open adoption. It did not take long to realize that open adoption means different things to different people. More importantly, open adoption means different things to different agencies. After more research we were able to find an agency that matched our definition of what open adoption meant to us.
The agency that we decided to work with is an out of state agency. Although they do not specialize in same sex couple open adoptions they do not discriminate in any way. They work with all individuals and families who express a desire to adopt and meet their stringent criteria for eligibility. The agency is licensed in a handful of states but Tennessee is not one of them. This meant having to clear a few extra hurdles.
There is no doubt that adoption is both an emotional and financial challenge. We have been in a committed relationship for eleven years. For over a decade we casually spoke of children. Part of the reason it took us so long to make the decision was to insure that we were financially and emotionally secure. Still, after careful planning, the process can remain overwhelming. There have been unexpected expenses, both financial and emotional, along the way.
After spending a couple of weeks gathering vital forms and signing reams of paperwork we made our way to the agency to sign our contract. It was signed and we were on our way we knew there was no going back. We decided to tell our families that we had started our journey. We are lucky to have families that love and support us both. Our decision to adopt was met by more enthusiasm than we could have ever hoped for. Our families have provided immense emotional support for us. We have been fortunate to have never felt any resistance from our families, friends or community in this process.
We have learned that adoption is not a smooth process. Every adoption story is unique. Many criteria and clearances have to be met. Occasionally everything falls into place for weeks at a time. Then suddenly, the seemingly smallest of tasks can takes weeks or months to finish. Often you find yourself waiting for a third party to complete a form or process paperwork. These parties have no vested emotional interest in your adoption story. We have to remember that adoption is not a race. Each hurdle cleared must be completed with precision and accuracy.
As with every adoption there is a clear ending in sight with the placement of a child. The pace set is unique to each and every adoption. Though we are eight months into our journey in many ways we have just begun. No matter how long it takes the true journey will begin the day our adoption is finalized.