A modern family

Ian and Darryl Colvin were on their honeymoon when they decided to start a family. “I was reading Dan Savage’s book The Kid: What happened after my boyfriend and I decided to go get pregnant,” says Ian.

“I looked over at Darryl and said, ‘You know, it’s time for us to start looking into this—especially for adoption because you don’t know how long it’s going to take.’”

Ian always knew he was going to be a father. When he came out some 20 years ago, one of his fears was that if he came out that wouldn’t happen.

“I remember writing a letter to myself about coming out. I wrote, ‘I am going to come out, and I am going to be a dad.’ The fact that I was gay wasn’t going to stop me,” he recalls. “I didn’t know how that was going to happen, but I always wanted to be a dad from the time I was a little boy.”

In 1996, new legislation for adoptions in B.C. was introduced. At that time Family Services was part of the Adoption Reunion Registry and became one of seven (now four) licensed agencies in B.C. Today, the Ministry of Child and Family Development manages the B.C. Waiting Child Program and private agencies manage domestic newborn and international adoptions.

The laws for adoptions in B.C. are simple. Anyone over the age of 18 who is a resident of B.C. can apply to adopt—there’s no discrimination on the basis of gender, marital status or sexual orientation. Potential parents undergo a home study to determine if they are suitable and eligible to adopt. International adoptions are different, with each country having its own laws governing the adoption of children.

“Once you’re approved for a domestic adoption here in B.C. it’s the birth parents that choose the family,” says Shelley Brownell of FSGV Adoption Agency. “It used to be that you would be on a waiting list and in 1994, that list was about ten years long. Today, once the home study is completed, we work with birth parents to choose a family. There are more parents than babies; there’s never any guarantee that you’ll get a baby at the end of the process.”

Ian and Darryl chose Family Services because it had handled same gender adoptions before. “The reality started to kick in around the limitations as two dads. We couldn’t adopt internationally or in the States at the time, that was closed to us,” he says. Today, the U.S. is now open to same gender couples for adoption.
But they remained optimistic, hopeful, and persistent. “I would phone Andrea (their social worker), on a regular basis. Who’s looked at our profile? Do we need to change anything on our profile? I was constantly in touch with her,” he says laughing.

They finally did receive a phone call regarding a potential adoption, one that would eventually fall through, as some family members objected to the birth mother’s decision to choose a same gender couple. The final decision, however, was determined by geography. The birth mother wanted an open adoption, but was living in another province making an open adoption impossible.

Heartbroken, they decided to cancel Easter celebrations with their family and went to Seattle instead for some retail therapy. They went to dinner at PF Chang’s and popped open a fortune cookie. It said, “Remember this day, three months from now good things will come.”

Darryl encouraged Ian to keep the fortune and marked the date on the calendar. “As the day approached we’d joke, ‘oh good news day is coming up!’”

Sure enough, it was that day they got the call. Not only had a birth mom chosen them, the baby was going to be born in a week. They were elated but tried to be realistic too.

“We used to say we’re over the moon with our feet on the ground,” he says. “And then there are those 30 days after the baby is born where the birth mom has the option to reverse her decision. Those were the longest 30 days of my life.”

The couple bonded instantly with their now six year old son Ollie. When the time came to adopt again, they had more time to prepare. Beth, their second child, was an open adoption. They met her birth mother before she gave birth, attended doctor’s appointments with her, and were at Beth’s birth.
We were probably more nervous about an open adoption because we didn’t know how it might work,” he says. “It’s a hard concept for people to understand until you live it and realize how positive it is for everyone.”

The family meets with Beth’s birth mom periodically and Ollie is given the choice of whether he wants to attend or not.

For their son, whose adoption is closed, Ian and Darryl ensure that Ollie has the understanding and the language to understand that some children meet their birth mother and some don’t. They’re also close to Beth’s birth mom. “Beth’s birth mom is so kind to Ollie,” he says. “She was so worried about the fact that Ollie’s was a closed adoption and Beth was going to have an open adoption and how that would affect him. Whenever we get together, she brings a toy for Ollie if she’s bringing a toy for Beth.”

Statistically, there’s not an increase in the numbers of same sex couples being chosen for placement. Over the past 10 years, on average 1-2 same sex gender couples adopt a child from Family Services each year. “It feels like there’s more acceptance around it,” says Shelley. “Birth parents are not only willing to consider same gender couples, they’re asking for them.”

Over the past six years Ian has noticed that while there has been more visibility of same gender couples, they still run into old stereotypes.

“One of the funniest things we had to get over is people see dads together and say, ‘isn’t this sweet, you’re giving mom the day off and babysitting the kids.’ It’s like, no, we’re a two dad family.”

Ian and Darryl treat these encounters with good humour and good parenting. “It doesn’t bother me because I know our family is different. If I showed any bother in front of the kids then it would bother them. We empower our kids to explain their dynamic because they get asked the question, why don’t you have a mum? So we stay matter of fact—we’re a two dad family, families are made up in different ways. We also educate people, the majority of whom are simply curious about our family.”

FSGV Adoption Agency holds events for its adoptive families throughout the year. “Whether families are coming for the play group or the pumpkin patch or our picnic, all I see is the love between the parents and the children,” says Shelley. “The kids have no issue with two moms or two dads, they just see them as the people who keep them safe and look after them.”

Both fathers (Ian is daddy, Darryl is papa) are enjoying the challenges and pleasures and yes, even the chaos of family life. “Ollie and Beth get along, they play, and they fight. They get so angry with each over the silliest little toy and then all of a sudden, they’re laughing and playing and having a great time. Beth adores her older brother, and he’s starting to take on the protective role. It’s really neat to watch.”

Ian advises anyone considering adoption to take the journey and research all your options. “Park the fear as much as you can because it’s a roller coaster but at the end you’re going to have a beautiful family.”

“FSGV Adoption Agency has been such an important part of our life,” says Ian. “We wouldn’t be the family that we are today without the agency and the support that we had. One thing we’ll never take for granted is this: we are parents because of an unselfish decision that a person made. We have such huge respect for our birth moms because they took care of our kids for nine months and they took care of them so well. For that, they will always have a very special place in our hearts.

There’s this immense love that your kids give to you and you give back. You can’t beat it, there’s nothing like it.”

Adoption Resources
For more information on adoption visit:
FSGV Adoption Agency

Adoptive Families Association of BC

Ian Colvin is a contributing writer for the parenting blog ‘Gays with Kids’ www.gayswithkids.com