Blog by, LSSNCA Director of Outreach, Dana Lea
Last month you read about the generous donation of a vehicle to Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holder Mohammad and his family in Manassas, Virginia. This donation was made possible thanks to the Capitol Hill Chapter of Amnesty International and Joyce Koons Honda Buick GMC. The Amnesty Chapter has been working with Mohammad’s family as Good Neighbor Partners. The group recognized Mohammad’s need for a vehicle, not only to transport the family of five, but to obtain and travel to work. The group raised money, but not quite enough to fully cover a gently-used vehicle.
That is when Amnesty got connected to Joyce Koons. Through a work connection, Joyce Koons (a family-run company) and President David Hish learned of the family’s need. Amnesty didn’t ask for a donation but rather for help choosing a reliable car at a good deal. As it turns out, the Joyce Koons dealership accrues funds to help with donations. And given that the current political climate around immigration has been on David’s mind, he saw this as a great opportunity to “give support to someone who has helped this country and should be helped regardless of where they are from.” So the Joyce Koons family collectively decided they should take the money raised and donate the rest to cover a used vehicle in excellent condition.
As it turns out (and often does), the world is small – this was not David’s first experience with LSSNCA. David was surprised to learn of our connection to Mohammad’s family because LSSNCA helped David and his husband with the adoptions of their two children, Avery and Aaron.
LSSNCA affiliated social worker, Maureen Kenny, performed the home studies for both of their adoptions. Unfortunately, when David and Adam were adopting, their marriage was not recognized in Virginia, so they had to have separate home studies performed. Their adoption agencies were based in Florida which allowed “second parent adoption” for unmarried couples (Florida didn’t recognize their marriage either). Previously, no LGBTQ+ individuals or families could adopt in Florida (where both of the kids were born) but in 2010, the Florida Supreme Court overturned that rule. That is when the two began navigating the idea of expanding their family. But since the two had to have home studies performed in their state of residency, LSSNCA was called for the task. David then had to adopt their two children himself and give parental rights to his husband Adam.
David and Adam have been together for 20 years and were legally married in Washington D.C. on their 10th anniversary. Originally the two had resigned to being fun and supportive uncles, but later became inspired to look into parenting. “I got the bug first,” says David. They worked with Rainbow Families for their Maybe Baby class. This class helps LGBTQ+ potential parents navigate through all of the considerations of and ways to become a family (adoption, surrogacy, foster care, IVF, etc.). Additionally, their 8-week course discusses legal mechanisms, budgeting, and parenting styles. It was Rainbow Families who recommended Maureen for the home study.
According to David, Maureen “really helped with the nervousness and excitement. The feeling of having someone come into your home and say whether you are worthy of being a parent” was definitely a strange and new experience for the couple. David says that what they knew previously about adoption was basically straight out of a “Lifetime movie of the week.” Maureen helped them navigate the reality of the process and the headache of the double home study.
Both adoptions were from birth and are open adoptions – making their family large and unique. Avery was born in 2012 and the dads were able to meet her birth mother. Her birth mother even requested they hold Avery first when she was born. That was a very special moment for the new dads. In 2014, Aaron was born and they became his fathers within days of his birth. David reflects on the unforgettable moment the hospital reprinted their visitor badges to say “parent.”
Both birth mothers were specifically looking for a same-sex adoptive couple. Avery’s mom had several LGBT friends and wanted her daughter to be the “greatest gift” possible by helping out a worthy couple who would likely have a more difficult time adopting. Aaron’s mom and grandma wanted him to have an “adventurous life.” To them a gay male couple would educate him and allow him to travel the world and be exposed to different culture. David joked about the pressure of therefore providing that exciting life to Aaron but they are trying their best!
David says they had no hesitation in making their adoptions open. Avery’s adoption agency was actually early pioneers of open adoptions, believing they are best for both the child and families involved. David and Adam therefore researched and trained on the psychological and emotional implications of open adoptions and came to firmly stand behind the decision.
As a proponent of open adoption, David explains this allows parents to be completely open with their adoptive children about their stories and where they come from. Both dads want their children to not only be connected to their “first families” but to love them and celebrate them. However, in their family you will not hear the words “birth mom” or “first mom,” just “mom.” Their mothers are celebrated on mother’s’ day and the children are connected with their siblings. Avery’s sister was even adopted by close friends of the family in D.C. There is no genetic requirement in family for them, so everyone is family and everyone is a sibling.
When asked what advice David has for potential adoptive parents, David says “do not be all happy all the time and shy away from the sad parts of the story.” It is okay for their children to be sad their mom is not here or able to care for them. But what is nice is that they are able to see their mothers as much as they can. Adoption begins with loss. It is important to both recognize and respect that. What matters most to them is that every child should be wanted. David says, “we are lucky because we have two wonderful children we couldn’t produce on our own. And we have two wonderful birth families. We are grateful for that opportunity and those that have helped us.” During this journey David and Adam have found incredible support from family, friends, and even strangers online who have stood up in their defense as fathers. David wants to be there to stand up for other people, their families, their right to exist and be loved, supported, healthy, and happy.
There is no greater gift for an organization like ours than to see clients and partners come full circle. We were able to help David and Adam on their journey of love and family. And now David and his family have shown kindness and generosity to Mohammad. David says he ultimately hopes Mohammad is successful, treated with respect, and celebrated for his contributions. David has been disillusioned by how some people treat others purely based on the fact they are from a different culture or country. He hopes this gift will help Mohammad in his employment and financial stability. He hopes the community will continue to support Mohammad and welcome his family into this country.
You can follow David’s family’s life and journey at AdamAndDavid.com. If you are interested in expanding your own family we encourage you to reach out to LSSNCA. We work with families to foster Unaccompanied Refugee Minors and conduct home studies for adoption. Visit LSSNCA.org for more information.