A Forever Family in our Hearts: THE NORMAND-GUZZARDO FAMILY

Being from the conservative South, the unknown of the adoption process and what obstacles might be ahead of us was definitely not overshadowed by our desire to create a family of our own and open our lives to a child.  After talking with both private and state adoption agencies, we made the decision to pursue adoption through the foster care system after learning about the strong need for adoptive families in our state and also realizing the number of older children who were available for adoption.  Honestly, until this point, the thought of adopting an older child was not even something we had considered in the past.  In Louisiana, as in so many other states, adoption by a non-married couple is not legal.  Despite this, we found the entire process and most of the case workers we encountered very open to our relationship.  This is not to say that there were some who simply didn’t know how to handle a gay couple, but we really had no issues once they got to know us and realized that our wish to have a family was no different than any other couple. 

Our home study was conducted as though we were a married couple.  We both were required and completed foster case certification classes together like any other couple.  Honestly, most of the hiccups that occurred with our adoption were more about the flawed and over-stressed foster care system than about our status as a gay couple. 

We were first told about Tyler on November 13, 2009, by the case worker in New Orleans who was assigned to help match us to a child.   The challenge was that Tyler was living in a much more conservative part of the state and coordinating an actual meeting with him between the two parishes (counties) proved to be challenging.  Over four weeks later, we were finally invited to meet Tyler at a Christmas party on December 15th and given forty-five minutes to “show signs of bonding” as his case worker stated.  Needless to say, the meeting was incredible and we were immediately looking forward to additional visits with Tyler.

At this point, we did get some pushback from Tyler’s case workers supervisor who had never worked with a gay couple and was not sure that being in a family with two dads would be good for a child.  After another month had passed, and after much persistence on our part, the case workers finally agreed to allow a home visit with Tyler.  Seeing him again after all that time was magical – he ran as fast as he could and jumped into our arms telling us he had wondered where we had been and that he had been waiting for us.   The visit went well, and in fact, after only three weekend visits it was recommended that Tyler be placed in our home full-time to make sure we all were comfortable with the new situation. 

Monthly visits from Tyler’s case worker (or case workers rather since there seemed to be a new one at each visit) only reinforced to them that Tyler was doing amazingly well with us and that our intent to pursue adoption was in everyone’s best interest.  After ten months, our adoption was finalized on October 14, 2010, in a court house in Tyler’s hometown.  Months earlier, Keith and I had decided that I would be the adoptive parent on paper until state laws allow second parent adoption in Louisiana.  The actual court proceedings moved along with no major issues except a few minor delays.  In the court chambers, even the judge acknowledged us as a couple rather than as a single parent adoption. 

Since the adoption, we honestly have not encountered any negative issues.  Of course, we have a stack of legal documents which make our family as close to any married couple family as possible, but we’ve yet to have to use any of the documents with schools, doctors, etc.  Keith and I are both actively involved in all aspects of Tyler’s life and we strive to make his reality as close to what every other child experiences as possible.  

There will always be the conservative groups who believe that gay couples adopting children is wrong, probably more so in the South than elsewhere.  The willingness of the workers in the foster care system and those in the judicial system to look beyond any prejudices that might exist around them and recognize the importance of stable families for children who would otherwise not be afforded the experiences and opportunities will hopefully always prevail.  Our forever family was created in our hearts before we ever met Tyler and legally four years ago this October 14, and we can’t even remember what life was like before him.

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