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.