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So. Ill. Activist

Ellen Kahn with her two daughters. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Only two out of 10 elementary school students have learned about same-sex-headed families, according to a new study commissioned by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Combine this with the fact that same-sex families with children live in 96 percent of counties in the United States, and we clearly have a failure to teach children about the world and people around them.

In its study, “Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States,” GLSEN found that during classroom discussions of families, nearly 90 percent of elementary school teachers said they taught students about different types of families—but less than a quarter included representations of LGB parents, and less than 10 percent included transgender parents.

Only a quarter reported “having personally engaged in efforts to create a safe and supportive classroom environment for families with…

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He said dada: how a childs first words can melt a parents heart

Two days in at this point, and we had a handle on everything. Or so we thought. It’s Saturday morning, there is a visit planned at safe place with a relative. Let me tell you I was not looking forward to this. We loved him already, and we started to think of him as our own child. This is a great thing, because it helps the bonding process. But nothing helps it like just spending time with a child who needs love.

The visit wasn’t supposed to start until 1130 am. Ian got us up at 630 am. By 800, when I was used to getting on a Saturday I was wide awake. Ian was still trying to get to know his surroundings. The one thing we have learned is patience with this process. Foster children will need time to adjust to their new environment regardless of age. Although  Ian seemed to start to  become comfortable from Day 1. We were very much in a honeymoon period as foster parents, and parents. What did we know. We were at this for 36 hours at this point. Being he was 11 months old we knew he should be getting ready to speak if he had not already. We knew for sure he was not walking. Unfortunately for Ian,  it was a case of neglect, where he was not interacted with much before he came into our care. This is an unfortunate truth often times with children who come into foster care.

At the time the easiest way to get to bond with him was to play with him and talk to him. There was an empty cardboard box on the floor from a package that came the night before.  It is amazing how children will make anything into a toy. This box which I had by the door to go  out for recycling later that day became the only toy in the world that this boy wanted. This was an opportunity to play with him on his level, and try to work on his speaking.

While playing with the box on the floor like it was a drum. I kept practicing the word(s) Daddy and Dada. I felt like i said it a hundred times, and probably did to be honest.  But you can see in a child’s eyes that they are processing what you are saying. He had this look. Out of nowhere he looked up at me and said DADA. I thought maybe I was hearing things, but he said it again. Ryan and I both heard it this time. My heart melted. He had this look of being so proud of himself in that moment. We may have had something to do with that being that we made such a big deal about it. Who wouldn’t? ! It’s the first time I heard my child call me Dad. You never forget that moment. It stays with me to this day. Most dads try to describe that moment, but it is indescribable.

As wonderful as that day was, between posting it on Facebook, and calling everyone I knew to brag.  The day had a sense of reality as a foster parent which quickly set in. Ian had a visit with his family at 11:30 am. A reminder a child who we were already in love with was not our forever child.

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© 2012 David Z. Pfeffer

* the names of our foster children have been changed to help protect their confidentiality.

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The call that changes our life forever

The day started as all the others. We had been licensed foster parents for 3 weeks at this point, and was getting restless to hear from the stork. (this is what the foster parents at our agency refer to as the person who makes the call). All I knew at the time was we were getting an 11 month old Caucasian male.

It felt as if time stood still. I called Ryan immediately to tell him the news. He was in as much shock, and awe as I was. Tears of joy were running down our face as we spoke over the phone. It was 1:45 in the afternoon, and we had three and half hours to prepare. It is no longer the two of us there is now three.

Those hours flew by quicker than I thought possible, while at the same time dragged on. We got to safe place. ( this is a part of DCF where foster children get picked up and have visits with their biological families). We walked in eager to start our new lives, wanting our new foster child. What seemed like hours was really only minutes. Then they brought out the most perfect little boy in the world. His name was Ian. Blond hair, blue eyes and now our responsibility. I understood in that moment what parents mean by love at first sight with their children. We were in love with him from the second we saw him. The workers at safe place knew nothing about why he was removed, if he had family, or anything. All they knew is he needed love. Which we were ready to give him.

The world had a sense of perfection for a few moments that day. We were dads. There is no going back at this point. Time to move past go, and collect our perverbial 200 dollars. That moment was priceless.

Then we realized we had no diapers, wipes formula anything!!! Great way to start but it’s early. Off to Costco we go. For those who know me, they are not suprised. Sometimes I feel like I live there. But we had no idea how many anything we needed so might as well stock up. This trip had to be a comedy of errors, from sitting in the parking lot trying to figure out how to open the stroller, to wondering how to get Ian out of the car with out waking him up. We managed somehow. Now there is one important thing we overlooked. While shopping we were so used to running in with out a cart to minimize how much we can spend.  This was a big mistake. The comedy of errors that this caused could not be funnier if it was on I love Lucy.

The workers at our local store were falling all over him, he was so handsome. We could not believe it, but reality hadn’t set in yet. It will when it was time for Ian to go to sleep. That’s when we knew it was real.

The night went well up till then. We had never been parents, let alone foster parents. So we called friends who knew. Our neighbor who is a mother of two and grandmother of two Diane came over, as well as our friend Laurie-Ann. Poor Ian was screaming so loud we had no clue what to do. He was quiet for hours. But I guess reality set in. He was with strangers and scared. No matter what any of us did he would not calm down. At this point I was wondering did we make a mistake ? Can we do this? Then I remembered the most important thing.

As Laurie-Anne and I walked out the house to get the little man some clothes, toys, and food for the morning we can hear the screams of fear through the parking lot. I turned around to look at Laurie-Anne, all she said was ” Its going to be a long night. Welcome to  parenthood.”

© 2012 David Z. Pfeffer

* the names of our foster children have been changed to help protect their confidentiality.

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Our Story Begins: how we began as foster parents in Florida

Six years ago Ryan and I met. I had just moved back to the United States from spending several years overseas in a school which unfortunately closed. I moved to Florida not knowing what I wanted, all I knew was I wanted a change. Little did I know that on August 6, 2005 I met the person who six years later to the date I would marry and begin my family with.

Fast forward five years later. October 2010 the adoption ban in Florida prohibiting same sex couples from adopting was officially over. Ryan and I would not have to hide who we were to adopt. Now comes the question how do we go about to do it. The obvious decision to us was to go and interview foster agencies in the Fort Lauderdale area.

After many weeks of calling and asking around we found our fit. Kids in Distress (kids) foster agency in Wilton Mannors Florida here we come. Trying to hold back my excitement I called and got a list of their foster parent class orientations, and we began our lives as future foster parents January 2011. Little did we know not only were we getting an extended family of support through this agency. Our foster director Tiffani laid out the good bad and ugly of fostering. It was made very clear she only licenses a few of us in this orientation. We started as a group of 35 at graduation 10 weeks later there was 12 left. We were the ones who made it through and had what it takes to be a kids foster parent. That one call in October changed our lives for the better in ways we could not know till 7 months later when were licensed foster parents and got the call. We were parents.

 

Check out our newer entries. We welcome you into our lives on this journey.

© David Z. Pfeffer 2012

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