This National Foster Care Month, we celebrate the love and sacrifice of foster parents across the country. CJ McGregor and his husband Richard are two parents who exemplify that love and sacrifice. After moving to Massachusetts from New York in 1996, CJ and Richard decided it was time to start building their family. CJ is a Unitarian Universalist minister and Richard a children’s mental health counselor and special education advocate. They were both very aware of the full-time commitment of being a parent and the extra effort it may take to raise a child who’d had a rough start in life.
But in 1998, CJ and Richard attended an adoption event to meet a little boy named Tony and fell in love. Coming from a traumatic childhood, Tony had some behavioral problems and had already been placed with over 12 foster homes and suffered through one failed adoption. Finally the adoption went through and Tony was able to join his forever family. A few months later, Tony was diagnosed with autism. While this was a devastating realization for the whole family, the diagnosis gave them the opportunity to move forward with the tools they needed to build the best life possible for Tony.
In 2000, the McGregors began to think about expanding their little family again and attended another adoption event where they met Robert, who had an anxiety disorder and had also suffered through over 10 foster placements and a failed adoption. They fell in love and Robert joined their family. Five years later, Robert was diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been hospitalized several times.
Through all the difficulty, the most important things that CJ and Richard could tell their sons were: “This is your forever home. There is nothing you can do to change that. Sometimes we might get mad at your behavior, but we will always love you.”
Tony and Robert are now 23 and 20 and living on their own. It was the stability of a permanent home and the support of loving parents that allowed them to thrive: they are managing their disabilities, they have jobs and friends and communities of support and love. Without CJ and Richard, Tony and Robert’s lives would have been very different.
Growing up with two dads was normal for Tony and Robert. For a while, Tony thought everyone had two dads and the boys loved to tell everyone in the checkout line at the grocery store that CJ and Richard were gay. Not being out was never an option for their family. But there were some challenges along the way: one of Tony’s aids in 6th grade monitored his lunches and the coat that he wore to school because she was worried that he didn’t have a mother and projects at school were always focused around having a mother and a father: Tony and Robert celebrated their grandmother for Mother’s Day.
CJ and Richard fortunately live in a state where they were both able to legally adopt their sons and they are both able to be listed as parents on the boys’ birth certificates (although CJ is listed as their “mother”). In the majority of states in the U.S. , CJ and Richard would have been unable to complete a joint adoption, which would mean that Tony and Robert would have had only one legal parent.
This Foster Care Month, we celebrate CJ, Richard, Tony, and Robert and the richness and strength of their shared lives. Of the more than 400,000 children currently in the foster care system across the U.S., 107,000 of them are available for adoption. Approximately 27,000 of these youth age out of the system each year without ever finding permanent homes to call their own. The Every Child Deserves a Family Act (HR 1681/S 1770) is a federal bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status in foster care and adoptive placements, thereby opening hundreds of thousands of additional loving, stable and secure homes to waiting children. ECDF would ensure that all foster children have the same opportunity to find their forever home – just like Tony and Robert did.