Auto writer Casey Williams chronicles the ups-and-downs of adopting a child
Adopting a child can be one of the most challenging undertakings of anyone’s life. When you decide to adopt, you agree to months and months of paperwork, research, expense, unexpected twists and turns and countless emotional challenges. But despite all the difficulties, the rewards are incalculable.
“Of course there’s some risk in it, but you can’t imagine what it’s like when you finally have that child home,” says Casey Williams, who along with his husband Jerrod adopted a daughter in 2014.
The experience proved so life-changing, Williams — who is also Dallas Voice’s long-time automotive writer — wrote a book about it: The Adoption of Little Miss Fancy Pants (By Her Gay Dads), a sweet, funny and detailed chronicle of the ups and downs of his family’s experience.
We recently spoke to Williams by phone for some tips on how to get started down the road to starting your family.
Take stock financially. With attorneys’ fees, agency fees, travel, research expenses medical bills and unseen costs, adoption is expensive. Williams’ first seminar weekend alone cost them $1,200, and the entire process cost about $30,000. Casey and Jarrod were lucky in that both of their employers offered credits to help pay for the process. Also, check with your insurance company — depending on your situation, they might cover the costs of the pregnancy.
Research open adoptions. More and more individuals and agencies are engaging in open adoption, where the birth parents have legal access to the child. Frequency and type of contact vary according to what the birth parents decide, from face-to-face visits to written communication. The method, Williams says, can be difficult to wrap your mind around. “At first, we felt uncomfortable about it,” he says. “We thought once-a-year visits were enough. But now we have a really close relationship. To us they feel like our in-laws — they’re all actually at a fair together today.”
Be ready for a wait. Research. Interviews. Paperwork. Home visits. Background checks. More paperwork. Labyrinthine legal work — all of it takes time. The Williamses started the process in November of 2010, and the adoption was completed in March 2014 — three-and-a-half years later. Williams notes that length of time is unusual, but it’s still a process that on average takes 18 to 24 months.
Be ready to be scared. “That first night after the first seminar, we came home and I was laying on the couch completely overwhelmed. Just lying there saying, ‘Can we do this?’” Williams says. “But you finally get to the point where you just jump in. It’s the same for any parent — you’re starting a whole new phase of your life.”
Consider the LGBTQ factor. For LGBTQ adopters, even the usual challenges are multiplied by the complexities — and sometimes barriers — that vary state-by-state and country by country. You’d think that because marriage equality is now legal in the U.S. that the same would hold true for LGBT adoptions. Sadly, that’s not true. The Williamses adopted in Indiana after moving there from Kentucky. “In Indiana, we were really lucky we didn’t have any problem,” Williams says.
“Kentucky’s laws were not favorable. They wouldn’t even look at us in Kentucky.” The policies of adoption agencies toward gay adoptions vary as much as those of state and local governments. The agency that Williams found “treated us exactly the same was anyone else,” he says. But many agencies are run by more conservative religious groups who don’t believe in gay adoption and won’t even consider your application. If you’re considering a foreign adoption, look into current law for each country. Russia, China, and some African countries, in particular, present considerable challenges to adoptions by same-sex couples.
When it comes to open adoptions, same-sex couples can also face challenges with birth families. “Some people don’t want their kids with gay parents,” Williams says. “But there are some mothers who do, because they want to be the only mother in a kid’s life. But generally, they don’t care. They just want their kid to be happy.
Try not to worry too much. If all this sounds like a lot, it is. But the rewards of expanding your family end up making the intensity melt away. “Our daughter is 3 ½, and there are many nights we see her riding a bike or whatever, and you sit there thinking about all the process,” Williams says. “And how, now we’re here it’s so worth it.”
— Jonanna Widner
The Adoption of Little Miss Fancy Pants (By Her Gay Dads) is available at Amazon and other book retailers.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 28, 2017.